The United Kingdom will not turn its back on Barbados and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members when it comes to trade.
This assurance has come from Stephen Kossoff, Head of the Department for International Development (DFID) Caribbean, who said the current EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) would remain in place until the end of this year.
In fact, Kossoff informed regional trade representatives that once that agreement between the UK and the region expires, a new one would be implemented.
The UK is due to leave the EU on Friday, January 31, which means it would have to negotiate new trade deals outside of what currently exists between the EU and other trade partners.
Addressing the opening of a three-day CARICOM workshop on World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues at the Savannah Hotel on Tuesday, Kossoff said the UK remains a firm supporter of the EPA.
“As we leave the EU, I want to assure everyone in this room that we remain as committed as ever to creating the stable business environments and trading regimes that help to address the challenges faced by small island states,” said Kossoff.
“We are really pleased that in line with the withdrawal agreement reached between the EU and the UK, the terms of current trading arrangements will remain unchanged during the implementation period, which will run between the end of January and December 2020,” he said.
Stating that the UK believed in the rules-based free trade system, he said the UK would continue to do what it could to promote trade in the region.
“We particularly look forward to bringing the new CARIFORUM-UK EPA,” he said, adding that CARIFORUM states would sign up and ratify that agreement “once the EU agreement ceases to apply to the UK”.
Further pointing to the UK’s contribution of up to £16 million to the Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2) over a six-year period, Kossoff pledged continued trade-related support for CARICOM.
“We want to ensure that businesses in both the Caribbean and the EU are maximizing the benefits of the agreements.