Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz has therefore called on the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to take the appropriate steps to ensure their businesses can compete on the international market.
“When you open your market to a grouping like the EU there can be some negative fallout. Revenues to the different Caricom territories may suffer with the increased access of EU goods and services to their markets. We have to make sure that does not happen, that the territories are all strong enough. As Caricom, we can in fact do that, we can help and work with each other to deal with the EU.”
Cadiz was speaking to Newsday yesterday, following his presentation at a European Union/CARIFORUM seminar on doing business with Europe under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), at Hilton Trinidad.
The trade minister acknowledged the EPA’s good aspects too, saying Caricom now had trade and cultural access across Europe, with the exception of Belgium.
“Energy would still be a major export from TT but not just selling our raw material. We are looking at a whole host of downstream products, such as plastics and textiles that we can produce. TT therefore needs to identify where those export markets are.”
Cadiz also spoke about the lack of a “made in TT” brand of steel pans, which would do very well in Europe, where pan music has many fans.
“I keep asking how many steel pans have ‘made in TT’ stamped on them. Not very many, I’ve never seen one. This is one area in which we need to get our act together on, from the pan tuners to the sellers, to the players, right up to the chain to energy-based products. TT has to be very, very focused about what we want out of the EPA and take advantage of it,” Cadiz said.
Under the EPA, signed in October 1998, Cariforum no longer traded with Europe’s 27 markets under preferential terms. Instead, Cariforum was required to give a level of reciprocity to EU goods and services.
However, certain Cariforum business and contractual service providers are guaranteed temporary entry to the EU to conduct business. The EPA defines contractual services as architecture, legal advisory, engineering, Information Technology, urban planning and landscape architecture, market research, management consulting and translation and interpretation.
“Ultimately,” Cadiz told seminar attendants yesterday, “the EPA is a platform to expand businesses by creating predictable market access. It promotes economic growth, and through encouraging joint ventures and other strategic partnerships, it allows for access to EU technology and ultimately technology transfer. In essence it promotes greater trade between our two regions.”