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September 13, 2013

First Meeting of the Open-ended Committee on the Implementation of Article 238 of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)

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An Open-Ended Committee of select CARIFORUM Member States met in Georgetown Guyana from November 15th – 16th, 2012 to review three technical studies related to the implementation of Article 238 (Regional Preference) of the CARIFORUM- European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The studies reviewed the application of Article 238 as they relate to the trade in goods and services among CARIFORUM Member States. The meeting held at the CARICOM Secretariat also reviewed a Legal Opinion on the enforceability and implementation of the Article.

Article 238(2) provides that, “Any more favourable treatment and advantage that may be granted under this Agreement by any Signatory CARIFORUM State to the EC party shall be enjoyed by each Signatory CARIFORUM State.” That means CARIFORUM countries are required to give the same or more favourable treatment in relation to the trade in goods and services to each other. The Article further requires that in the case of the More Developed Countries (MDC’s) i.e. the Commonwealth of Bahamas, Barbados, the Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, the Republic of Suriname, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic should accord such treatment one year after signature of the Agreement. On the Other hand, the Less Developed Countries (LDC’s) i.e. Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, should accord such treatment two years after the date of signature of the Agreement.

Additionally, the Agreement does not require the Republic of Haiti to extend any such favourable treatment and advantage to the Dominican Republic before five years of the date of signature of the Agreement. Haiti signed the Agreement in 2009 and is yet to complete its internal procedures to ratify the Agreement.

According to Ms. Barbara Williams, EPA Implementation Coordinator since the signature of the Agreement in 2008, this is the first time the CARIFORUM countries have given focused attention to the implementation of the provisions relating to Article 238.

From the technical studies undertaken to review the application and implementation of the Article, Ms. Williams indicated that the meeting discussed issues relating to the domestic regulations required to give effect to the provisions, the revenue loss likely to be experienced by Member States as a result of implementing the provisions, and the options available to the CARIFORUM States either through the use of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, the Use of a Protocol or the negotiation of an international agreement for the implementation of the Accord.

According to Ms. Williams, the Committee concluded that Member States should undertake with immediate effect national and sub-regional consultations on the most appropriate mechanism to give effect to the provisions of the Article, including focus attention on the revenue implications.

The recommendations of the meeting will be further discussed at the CARIFORUM Ministers Council Meeting which will be convened in the Dominican Republic from November 25th – 30th, 2012.

The core members of the Open Ended Committee include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

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