On April 14 and 15 in Port-of-Spain, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is hosting a seminar for the Caribbean business community to help companies make the most of the Cariforum-EU EPA. The seminar will bring together more than 70 business figures from across the Caribbean with participants from Europe. They will explore how to use the EPA's provisions to export more, secure greater outside investment, and thereby drive growth and jobs in the Caribbean. "Signing the EPA is good. Making the EPA work is better," said Peter Thompson, Director for Development and EPAs at the Trade Directorate-General of the European Commission.
"We now have to turn the EPA into a real engine for generating growth opportunities in the Caribbean. The business community of Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most vibrant in the Caribbean.
"Trinidad and Tobago is also one of the Caribbean countries where the Ministry of Trade has already taken the first steps to make the EPA operational. The private sector plays the key role in this.
"That's why we've invited representatives of the Caribbean business community to Trinidad. Over the next two days we'll discuss how these businesses can benefit from the EPA and boost Caribbean trade, wealth and jobs". Cariforum countries and the EU signed their Economic Partnership Agreement (or EPA), a key trade and development partnership, in 2008. The EPA is designed to help spur growth across the Caribbean by enabling businesses to export more to the EU and within the region. But Caribbean businesses and business organisations are not always aware of the EPA's content or its potential benefits.
The seminar's purpose is to help bridge that gap. On the first day participants will learn more about the content of the accord, and how they can use it to boost their businesses' exports to the EU, secure investment from Europe and invest in Europe themselves. They'll gain advice from technical experts about complying with some of the most common non-tariff measures that Caribbean businesses face when exporting to the EU, such as standards, certification procedures, and rules of origin. The seminar will also highlight EU resources available to help Caribbean businesses export more to Europe, such as the Export Helpdesk and EU development funding. On the second day smaller workshops will focus on specific business sectors, covering trade in both goods and services. Discussions will focus on agri-business (including geographical indications), manufacturing, information and communication technologies (ICT), culture and the arts, finance and consultancy, and engineering and architecture.
In each workshop, participants will explore the EPA's potential benefits for their respective sector, and the tools and financing available to help their businesses. Participants will also include officials from both regions, including Minister Stephen Cadiz and other officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Trinidad and Tobago and representatives from a select group of European companies. The seminar's conclusions will serve as invaluable input for the inaugural meeting of the Cariforum-EU Trade and Development Committee, which is set to meet in the next few months. The committee brings together senior officials from both regions to manage and review implementation of the accord.