Event in Barbados marks closeout of EU-funded regional integration programme

Regional integration through the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is still the most efficient way for countries in the Caribbean to overcome the challenges posed by size, scale and limited capacity in the global markets, says Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). She was speaking at the opening of the recently held two-day closeout workshop for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and CSME Standby Facilities for Capacity Building.

Here in the Caribbean, factors such as small size, limited capacity, persistent vulnerability to natural disasters, high energy costs, infrastructure gaps, and institutional and regulatory weaknesses make it difficult for our borrowing member countries to build the type of competitive advantages that could lead to economic diversification and sustained growth. Today in 2017 regional economic integration is still the most viable and logical developmental response to a persistently complex, intense and unpredictable globalised environment,” said La Bennett.

In December 2012, CDB and the European Commission signed Contribution Agreements for the implementation of the EPA and CSME Standby Facilities, administered by CDB. The Facilities are supported by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), which came to an end earlier this year. The two-day workshop was intended to facilitate a review of achievements and discuss the way forward.

Ambassador Daniela Tramacere, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados noted that the EU is committed to the CSME and EPA, and that Caribbean countries must take final responsibility for the success of both.

I must underscore that we see the EPA and CSME as two interrelated dimensions of the region’s integration thrust… As we continue to transform our relationship with the region from one of donor-recipient to one of mature partners in development, it will become increasingly important that our investments at the regional level resonate at the national level. Indeed, national ownership is the single most important ingredient in regional integration,” said Ambassador Tramacere.

Minister of Industry and International Business, Barbados, Hon. Donville Inniss, noted that while the achievements under the 10th EDF have been admirable, there is still work to be done.

There remains an urgent need to strengthen inter-agency collaboration between public, private sector and the EU institutions on national policy work with respect to the economic partnership trade agreements. And given the new level of complexity in the global economy, which is becoming more rapid and fluid, Barbados remains cognisant of the importance of having a balanced, sustainable and robust trade policy agenda that will assist in managing and navigating future growth and development.”

The EPA, signed in 2008 by Europe and the 15-member CARICOM bloc, along with the Dominican Republic, is a trade agreement. CSME is an arrangement designed to benefit the 15 CARICOM states in the areas of free movement of goods, services, people, capital and technology. The Standby Facilities provide funding to support implementation of both the CSME and EPA.

The projects assisted member states to build capacity and comply with the provisions under the revised treaty of Chagaramas. Some 28 projects were developed and these include assistance to stakeholders in the sectors ranging from creative arts to small and medium sized enterprises,” said Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, CARICOM Secretariat.

The two-day workshop was held from October 26 to 27, at CDB’s Conference Centre in Barbados.