Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon yesterday called for the relationship between Cariforum and the European Union (EU) to be strengthened. She made this call when she addressed the opening of an EU-Cariforum Parliamentary Committee meeting at the Hyatt Regency, in Port of Spain.
Gopee-Scoon noted that nine years ago, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Cariforum was established. She said the EPA is a modern and comprehensive trade and development agreement.
Noting this agreement signals a shift between Cariforum and the EU, Gopee-Scoon said there must be a more flexible approach in dealing with sensitive issues which Cariforum countries face. She explained this is relevant, “especially in this time of difficult economic conditions and with the physical devastation caused by our vulnerability to natural disasters.”
Under the EPA, Gopee-Scoon said, Cariforum states benefit from duty-free/quota-free access to the EU market for all goods (except arms and ammunition). She said for the region’s enterprises to effectively seize opportunities provided by the EPA, “they must not be deprived of or hindered (by increased transaction costs)”, with respect to the ability to capitalise on market-access opportunities.
She said this brings about undue strain on economic operators who in the first place, typically face acute competitiveness challenges. She added, “In actuality, there must be a level-playing field.”