Barbados is ready to take full advantage of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with post-Brexit Britain, Minister of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands has declared.
Leading off debate on the Economic Partnership Agreement bill in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, she insisted that the Mia Mottley administration would not allow the country to forgo the benefits of the EPA which will govern the trade of goods and services with the UK once it withdraws from the European Union.
Blasting the Democratic Labour Party’s treatment of the EPA with the European Union over the last decade, which she described as “an act of sheer political malpractice”, she said that it was in Barbados’ best interest to maximize the benefits of the new trade agreement with London.
Husbands noted a “precipitous drop” in Barbados’ trade to Britain over the last seven years.
She told legislators: “So for Barbados in 2011, we had one of the highest recorded numbers in terms of trade between us and European countries.
“It was 126 million dollars in trade but here we are today some seven years later, we have dropped from 126 million dollars to 37 million dollars with the UK because the majority of the trade that Barbados with the EU, the main is really with the UK.
“UK Trade as at 2011 was 107 million. That trade has not dropped to 13 million dollars in 2018, so we have seen a precipitous drop in our trade.”
Rum and condiment exports could be among “critical industries” affected if Barbados and CARIFORUM [Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic] failed to ink an EPA with the UK when it leaves the EU, the Foreign Trade Minister warned.
She pointed to a study conducted between 2008 and 2018 that showed that CARIFORUM countries have not benefitted significantly from the EU trade pact. But she said Barbados and its neighbours could only benefit from the EPA if they “ get out there and find business.”
Husbands said that’s why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has been engaging new country partners to promote trade and open markets for local goods, citing opportunities with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Guyana, Suriname, Panama, Ghana and Kenya.
In the area of services, Husbands revealed that Barbadian architects will soon be able to offer their services to EU member countries, though she said there was still much work to be done.
“They are going to be able to sign off on a [Mutual Recognition Agreement] so that that they can export their services into the UK,“ she also told the House.