Officials are calling on private sector players to become more aggressive in taking advantage of opportunities created for them under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Head of delegation of the European Union (EU) to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barford said he was not satisfied that business operators were capitalising on the various opportunities when it comes to trade under the EPA, despite the various avenues being created for them.
Barford was speaking to recipients of the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS) at the Caribbean Export Development Agency on Friday. 16 companies were granted just over $1 million under that programme. This forms a part of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
“From time to time we still hear comments from the private sector that not enough benefits are accruing from the EPA and that the EPA is not resonating enough. We at the EU cannot take the EPA work for you. It is for you to find ways to make the EPA beneficial. We can set the framework, but you have to do most of the work,” he said.
Barford said the fact that Caribbean companies were benefiting from the DAGS was proof that funding was available for companies that needed assistance in various aspects of their trade transition.
“It is also proof that despite the tough economic times that the EU is prepared to assist developing countries in their quest for ways out of the crisis,” he added.
“Even with such generous intentions on the part of the EU, the responsibility remains squarely on the shoulders of the private sector companies to take the initiative to capitalise on the opportunities presented in the agreement.
He argued that even with all the constraints, the private sector needs to use the provisions made available as they are the primary beneficiaries of the agreement.
Meanwhile, Minister of Industry and Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss said there needed to be greater discussion among the general population about the EPA.
He said too often the Government, along with the private sector players, would negotiate agreements but after they signed those agreements, the private sector was “not there to take up the opportunities”.
“Quite often we in Barbados sit back and see the opportunities out there but we don’t aggressively pursue them. We [cast] blame; we say the application process is too complex. We say it is too much paperwork to complete, we find all kinds of excuses.
“One of the messages I would like to go forth is that the same way you 16 organizations and private entities in Barbados can do it, so too can the rest of the society and the economy,” said Inniss.
“One of the things we can start by doing is not complaining but grabbing hold of the opportunities; to penetrate the EU market . . . I think the EU actually provide an excellent opportunity to get into their markets in a reasonably long time frame, but time is running out and we really and truly have to double our efforts in this region, especially in the private sector to get it done,” added Inniss.