EU and the Caribbean sign an Economic Partnership Agreement

The European Union and countries of the Caribbean region signed on October 15th, 2008, an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which will strengthen ties between the two regions and promote regional integration in the Caribbean. The EPA is the first genuinely comprehensive North-South trade and development agreement in the global economy, and includes a package of measures to stimulate trade, investment and innovation, and to promote sustainable development, build a regional market among Caribbean countries and help eliminate poverty.

The EPA between the EU and the CARIFORUM group of Caribbean countries was negotiated between 2004 and 2007 after previous trade arrangements failed to stimulate development and were challenged as discriminatory at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The EPA is a binding international agreement that fully complies with WTO rules and provides security for Caribbean traders and investors. The deal includes chapters on trade in goods, trade in services, investment, competition, innovation and Intellectual Property, public procurement and development aid.

Main benefits of the EU-CARIFORUM EPA

  • Offers up front access to EU markets for Caribbean exports.
  • Allows Caribbean markets to open gradually over 25 years with extensive safeguards to protect local jobs and sensitive sectors.
  • Frees up trade in the services sector to promote growth and investment.
  • Promotes cooperation in innovation programmes.
  • Protects labour and environment standards in the Caribbean.
  • Helps Caribbean exporters meet EU and international standards.

The EPA will mean much closer cooperation and dialogue between the two regions on all these issues and is backed with substantial EU development aid. EU financing plans are in place and being developed further, including participation in a regional fund to help implement the EPA.

The Caribbean EPA will be supported with financial assistance from the 10th European Union Development Fund, in particular the regional programme which amounts to 165 million euro for the period 2008-2013. Funds will be used to help implement the EPAs, to build business development programmes, and to assist in the reform of the taxation system of the CARIFORUM countries.

EU trade with the Caribbean region amounted to more than EUR 6 billion in 2007. The EU exported EUR 3.275 billion to the Caribbean including ships and boats and machinery. Caribbean exports to the EU were worth nearly EUR 3 billion, including ships and boats, fuels, chemicals and agricultural products.

EU Bilateral Trade Relations with ACP Countries

The EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) have been working to put in place new Economic Partnership Agreements. Such agreements aim at progressively removing barriers to trade and enhancing cooperation in all areas related to trade. They are also aimed at providing an open, transparent and predictable framework for freer trade in goods and services, and enhanced investment flows, thus increasing competitiveness of the ACP.

The ACP countries decided themselves on the regional groupings for EPA negotiations. There are 6 such groups, four in Africa, one in the Pacific and the one in the Caribbean.

The CARIFORUM countries are: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Cuba is also a member of CARIFORUM but is not part of the ACP group and did not participate in negotiations.