As the clock races down on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, two senators have urged Government to take urgent advantage of a separate trade and commercial deal with the UK.
Government Senators Dr Lynette Holder and Crystal Drakes gave their backing for a regional economic partnership agreement with the United Kingdom as the law to enforce the deal came before the Upper Chamber.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (Amendment) Bill modifies the original EPA between the EU and the CARIFORUM group of nations – the Caribbean Community and Dominican Republic – to take into account a separate partnership with the UK after Brexit.
Senator Holder, the head of the Small Business Association, cited what she deemed as a “major failure” on the part of the previous administration to take advantage of an Inter-American Development Bank grant to build a lab for small businesses to test their products to meet international standards.
She said: “I am hopeful as we go forward that we may consider how do we improve the opportunity for small firms to build capacity that they can in turn access those markets and in building capacity be able to help with the phytosanitary and sanitary issues to access the EU market?”
The Senator said the time for action to replace talk to help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) penetrate the bigger markets.
She added: “We are talking about enabling this MSME sector to access this huge market but we do have constraints.
“We have to address the capacity issues. I am of the view that you cannot go at it alone when you are small.
“The ‘Lone Ranger’ concept does not fly for me. When it comes to the practical side of business the ‘Lone Ranger’ ideology will not work.
“We have to work together we have to identify clusters. We must be able to leverage our strength across CARIFORUM.
“This is why the [CARICOM Single Market and Economy] is so critical. It was introduced primarily so that we can access markets.”
Earlier, Senator Drakes warned Government that failure to implement policies and to take advantage of the EPA would not allow businesses to benefit from all that it promises.
She said: “I support the Government in the tabling of this bill.
“I hope it can move us in a direction that starts to create new jobs and opportunities in Barbados and I do implore the Government to put some real measures in place that allows for businesses to take advantage of the economic partnership agreement.”