PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The second meeting of the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee took place on Wednesday in Port of Spain, Trinidad, co-chaired by Senator Vasant Bharath, minister of trade, industry and investment and minister in the ministry of finance and the economy.
The CARIFORUM delegation was led by Bharath, with representation from seven countries, namely, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
David Martin co-chaired the meeting and led the EU delegation, with representation from the European Parliament.
Discussions were held on a wide range of issues, with particular emphasis on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which seeks to facilitate ease of trade and service access to the European market.
At the end of the seven-hour long meeting, a joint declaration, reinforcing that the role of this committee is to monitor and review the implementation of the agreement, and to be a forum for members of the European Parliament and the CARIFORUM states legislatures to meet and exchange views.
The committee adopted its rules of procedure, another important step in the setting up of this parliamentary committee, which is part of the institutional framework under the EPA. Members stressed the importance of having all the institutions in place for the proper functioning and monitoring of this agreement. Particular reference was made to the consultative committee, the only joint institution for which membership is yet to be established and urged the fulfillment of this requirement.
The joint declaration states:
“The EPA was recognized as a very important tool to promote export-led development and economic growth, in light of the opportunities to be had in the EU market. The upcoming planned review of the EPA was seen as an important opportunity to assess the gains and challenges from the Agreement’s implementation to date.
“Both Sides expressed their commitment to the effective implementation of the EPA, a partnership for sustainable development, regional integration and the creation of new commercial opportunities between CARIFORUM and the EU. In that regard they called attention to the considerable importance of the CARIFORUM Region’s cultural industries, including education, sport, national heritage activities, training and exchanges, which are an asset of the Region and of the EU. This is one of the single largest growth areas with respect to export earnings, especially at a time when there has been significant reduction in traditional revenue streams. The EPA was recognized as being of critical importance in the Region’s strategy to further promote and commercialise the creative and sporting sectors. The Committee thus stressed the importance of the implementation of the Protocol on Cultural Cooperation, as a way to bring the two regions closer to each other. The Committee further noted that different actions and measures should be considered to develop it further, such as twinning projects between creative cities between both regions and the setting up of an EU-CARIFORUM Platform for the Culture and Creative Industries.
“The Committee underscored that while the Agreement opens up new possibilities as regards the movement of persons, especially for qualified professionals, through possibilities of temporary presence of natural persons for business purpose and mutual recognition of professions, as laid out in Articles 80-85 of the Agreement, in practice regulatory barriers impinge on the realization of the Agreement’s stated aims in this regard; thus posing challenges to translating market access into real market penetration. However, Members strongly welcomed and supported the proposal to lift the visa requirements for nationals of CARIFORUM states visiting the EU including the Outermost regions as an important measure to facilitate exchanges.”
Addressing the media at the joint press conference, Bharath stated that these meetings served to also allow for extensive discussions on trading issues and the opportunity to seek ways to remove impediments to encourage increased trade between the Caribbean region and the European Union all in keeping with the government’s goal to improve the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago.
Co-chair Mr. David Martin stated that one of the objectives of the EPA is to encourage regional integration and announced that during the period 2012- 2015, the EU would be spending 147 million Euros to help Caribbean countries integrate with each other.