The Grenada National Economic Partnership Agreement Unit (NEPAIU) in collaboration with the Hub & Spokes Project of the OECS Secretariat hosted a Round Table Discussion on the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on May 17, 2012.
The CARIFORUM-EU EPA is a trade and development agreement that was signed in October 2008. This agreement outlines provisions governing trade and related issues between the 27 European Union countries and 15 independent CARIFORUM Member States. As a CARIFORUM Member State, Grenada endorsed and provisionally applied the EPA in December 2008; fellow CARIFORUM countries and EU States also provisionally implemented the agreement.
The recently held CARIFORUM-EU EPA Round Table Discussion embraced the theme “Can Grenada and other OECS Member States derive significant benefits from the CARIFORUM-EU EPA?” This public education initiative served as a platform for CARIFORUM-EU EPA stakeholders to share their perspectives on the EPA, as a new and innovative trading arrangement. This sensitization programme attracted over 50 members of the public and private sectors.
Minister of Finance, Planning, Economy, Energy & Cooperatives, Honourable V. Nazim Burke delivered the Opening Address, stating the importance of EPA stakeholder participation in the EPA implementation process. He applauded the local EPA Implementation Unit and the Hub & Spokes Project for collaborating to enhance the awareness of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA among local stakeholders. He noted the expressed commitment of the Government in ensuring that Grenada honours the provisions of the EPA and positions itself to exploit the benefits of the agreement. He congratulated the Unit on jointly hosting such an event and encouraged the department to host similar initiatives that directly engage the general public.
Mr. Allan Paul, Regional Trade Advisor, Hub & Spokes Project within the OECS Secretariat addressed participants on his visit to the tri-island State. He communicated his unwavering commitment to assist the Grenada National EPA Implementation Unit in the coordination and execution of the EPA implementation process. He further encouraged attending EPA stakeholders to actively participate in discussions and the broader implementation programme, noting the benefits for exporters, importers and service providers. Mr. Paul urged participants to position themselves, their organisations and by extension, the Grenadian economy, to capitalize on the opportunities the CARIFORUM-EU EPA presents.
A panel of presenters which included Dr. C. Nigel Gravesande, Registrar, T.A. Marryshow Community College; Ms. Annette Henry, Registrar, Corporate Affairs & Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO), Ministry of Legal Affairs and Mr. Desmond John, National EPA Implementation Coordinator, Grenada National EPA Implementation Unit (NEPAIU), Ministry of Finance, directed the flow of discussions. They shared their perspectives on areas of Trade in Goods, Culture and Trade in Services within the context of the Agreement.
The panelists noted that there was an urgent need for the Government of Grenada to conduct extensive market research as a means of identifying profitable market segments and niches within the European Union and CARIFORUM. The mere identification of these market segments however does not translate to revenue recognition, thus, it was further stated that the assessment of market entry barriers and the development of practical market penetration strategies are equally important.
Participants expressed their appreciation for the facilitation of a round table platform, thus allowing in-depth dialogue on EPA and related issues. Stakeholders further sought clarification on various aspects of the EPA and noted that greater effort on public education must be made by the local Implementation Unit. The Unit was urged to target specific industries and professional groups in ensuring that EPA messages are widely and accurately received. Many attendees noted that this type of interaction on EPA and related matters would ensure that maximum benefits are reaped under the Agreement. Participants also expressed grave concern regarding the timing of this new trading arrangement, given the economic crisis confronting many of the European Union countries. Specifically, EPA stakeholders questioned the ability of the European Union to honour it’s financing and development assistance.
The Grenada National EPA Implementation Unit is pleased to have engaged various EPA stakeholders on the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and anticipates the continued support of these critical players throughout the EPA implementation process.