On Thursday September 29, 2011, the Grenada National Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation Unit (NEPAIU), in collaboration with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Implementation Unit within the CARIFORUM Directorate of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, hosted a Trade in Services Consultation on the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, at the Grenada National Stadium, St. George’s. This was the first in a series of consultations expected to be conducted by the NEPAIU.
The consultation formed part of a series of public education-styled interventions, spearheaded by the regional Unit in conjunction with the member states. This type of intervention is being used as a means to facilitate increased awareness of issues under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and illuminate various opportunities under the agreement. It is also being used as a means to provide the forum for discussion on measures to address associated threats and challenges in the various sectors.
The local consultation brought together government officials, industry leaders, civil society members, regional organisation representatives and representatives from the service sectors including, culture and entertainment, hotel and tourism, marketing and media. Together, they actively participated and shared their perspectives on the state of their industries and the potential impact of the CARIFROUM-EU EPA, as a trade and development agreement.
In speaking at the opening of the session, Hon. V. Nazim Burke, Minister of Finance, Planning, Economy, Energy and Co-operatives, urged the participants to make use of the opportunity that is being provided through this forum.
He emphasized that Grenada and the region, through the EPA Agreement, can benefit from the opportunities of, duty free, quota free access to the EU market, simplified rules of origin for CARIFORUM goods, and unprecedented access to various services. He underscored that: “Grenadian service providers can have temporary access to EU markets to supply services in twenty-nine service sectors ranging from accounting services, to architectural services to fashion model services, entertainment services, computer and related services, tour operators and tourist guide services to name a few ……. our economy is a services oriented economy”.
Minister Burke went on to say: “…our government has identified five sectors to transform the economy in the medium to long term. Three of the five transformational sectors are services oriented. These three services oriented transformational sectors are Education Health and Wellness Services, Tourism and Hospitality Services and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The other sectors are Agribusiness and Energy Development. This consultation provides an occasion to better understand this opportunities that exist for trade in these services. It allows you to identify those areas of specific interest to your business ….. these you will need to understand in order to make strategic business decisions…. Don’t let this opportunity be lost…”
Ms. Allyson Francis, a Grenadian, who is the Trade in Services Specialist of the EPA Implementation Unit within CARIFORUM Directorate of the CARICOM Secretariat, was the main presenter at the event. She led a very informative session on trade in services provisions under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. Eliciting an interactive discussion, greater insight was provided on: opportunities under the agreement; requisite measures to be implemented to capitalize on these opportunities and information relating to the availability of technical and other assistance.
The consultation also facilitated the official launch of the NEPAIU website, http://nepaiu.gov.gd A NEPAIU representative remarked that the site would serve as a platform through which stakeholders can garner information on the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and acquire greater awareness of the provisions under the Agreement. Additionally, notwithstanding its utility as an information hub, the website would further provide stakeholders with the opportunity to remain abreast with various initiatives undertaken by NEPAIU and the regional Unit.
Recognition was given to the Department of ICT, Prime Minister’s Ministry for its invaluable contribution to the development of the website. CARICOM representative and Information and Public Education Specialist, of the EPA Implementation Unit, Mr. Nand Bardouille, expressed words of congratulations and great delight in the development and launch of the website. He further noted that Grenada is one of the first Member States to develop and launch a website.
Coming out of the consultation, the participants conveyed that they had gained a much deeper appreciation of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and some of the obligations that CARIFORUM States have undertaken to meet, and that they had a clearer understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with harnessing the Agreement. They are now better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that currently exists.