CARICOM Secretariat, Guyana - Aug. 10, 2012 - The Director General of the CARIFORUM Directorate, Mr Ivan Ogando Lora, and the Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton, headlined the closing session of the 2nd CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum held in London from August 8-9. Both touted two core messages to an audience of private and public sector representatives from the Caribbean and Europe that numbered in the hundreds: “CARIFORUM is open for business and is unflinching in its commitment to implementing the EPA.”
The meeting took place under the auspices of the Caribbean Export, in collaboration with the African Caribbean & Pacific States Business Climate (ACP BizClim) is hosting the event.
For her part, Ms Coke-Hamilton said that the message “rang loud and clear” from participants at the two-day Business Forum, “they are eager to engage the European market place.” She noted further, “the EPA is a very important foundation for us in the Region to build on and utilize, with respect to tapping into the European market place. However, we need to continue to put in place mechanisms to enable our private sector, for example agro-processors and creative industries, to take advantage of the EPA. This meeting is one, important step in that direction.”
However the Executive Director cautioned that states must do their part, saying “one of the key elements in EPA implementation is for countries to put in place the relevant legislation and implementation environment.” In this regard, Mr Ogando pointed to the CARIFORUM Directorate’s role in supporting CARIFORUM states as they continue to “roll out” the EPA. He was quick to also call attention to the fact that CARIFORUM states are “not hesitant to implement the EPA; I wish to convey this to our EU friends.” He underlined that notwithstanding, “there are some very real challenges which the meeting has touched on regarding market penetration in relation to tapping into the EU market, but there are serious capacity issues too at the level of states. In the final analysis, though, the Region remains committed to using the EPA as a tool for our sustainable development.”
Ms Coke-Hamilton noted, however, that “when all is said and done, it is up to the Region to ‘just do it’, when it comes to EPA implementation. And this is where Caribbean Export has a crucial role to play with respect to actors that must lead the charge in the Region in taking advantage of the EPA, the private sector.” She noted that what became clear from deliberations over the course of the two-day meeting is the importance of market intelligence, in terms of making targeted market information available to Caribbean enterprises wishing to break through the EU market in a manner where they can leverage niche areas and quickly take advantage of opportunities under the EPA.” She touted the role of Caribbean Export’s Helix Model, in this regard. The Executive Director cited branding as a key narrative emerging from deliberations, in respect of Caribbean firms not just establishing but also retaining a presence in markets like those of the EU at a certain level of the value chain, namely at a higher level. She also pointed to the need for more Caribbean Export consultations with industry clusters, to better inform the Agency’s interventions going forward and make for a more targeted approach to servicing stakeholders.
In concluding remarks, Mr Ogando noted that the Business Forum has “contributed to building private sector capacity. It provided an extremely useful platform to facilitate EPA informed dialogue between entrepreneurs, business support organizations, officials and policy makers from the Caribbean and Europe, and has provided a ‘shot in the arm’ to EPA implementation.” He emphasized that “the CARICOM Secretariat-based EPA Implementation Unit and Caribbean Export are on the frontlines of ongoing efforts to extend EPA implementation support to CARIFORUM. Their respective programmes of work are intended to help mitigate regional EPA implementation challenges, but also to provide a fillip to CARIFORUM’s bid to pursue EPA-related opportunities. The CARIFORUM Directorate is fully committed to working with Caribbean Export, as it seeks to advance the cause of EPA implementation. Caribbean Export is doing some important, complementary work in this regard, and we applaud the Agency for mounting this signature event. By all accounts, it has been a resounding success.”
The fifteen signatory Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (CARIFORUM) States to the EPA are the independent CARICOM Member States and the Dominican Republic.
CONTACT: Nand C. Bardouille Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Implementation Unit firstname.lastname@example.org