Described as a trade and development agreement, the EPA was signed by the twenty-seven European Union member states and the fourteen CARIFORUM states in October 2008. The agreement is designed to open up and enhance trade between the parties, and to improve CARIFORUM‟s capacity to competitively trade under the agreement. The EPA is therefore expected to improve CARIFORUM‟s access to European technology and technical „knowhow‟; improve efficiency in the production process; and expand the market opportunities for the export of goods and services for which there is a competitive advantage within the European market. Now that the EPA has been signed, it is the responsibility of national governments, regional institutions and private sector stakeholders to create opportunities and conditions necessary to take advantage of the commitments made, and adjust to the new environment by undertaking the appropriate reforms at the national level. The shared responsibility between government and the private sector in the implementation of the EPA both at the national and regional level is widely acknowledged and accepted. For the private sector, the successful implementation of the EPA largely depends on their capacity to innovate, be competitive and intelligently respond to the evolving global environment. Government and the private sector must work together to mitigate the costs of liberalisation, which in some measure includes adjusting to a more competitive environment and the progressive reduction and ultimate removal of tariffs. One of the primary objectives of the EPA is to assist with the diversification of the export and production base of CARIFORUM states, and adjust to the global trading environment. Their ability to achieve this would require substantial technical, financial and institutional resources for which the development cooperation provisions stated in Article 8 and infused throughout the agreement are meant to address. These provisions were negotiated in the agreement as an
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effective mechanism to address the supply-side and other developmental constraints that CARIFORUM states may face in their efforts to implement the agreement, and modernize their respective trade and economic structures. To benefit from these provisions, CARIFORUM states must establish appropriate national mechanisms to identify their implementation gaps and development cooperation needs in relation to the agreement. What can the private sector do to position itself to benefit from the agreement? Many of the businesses in Antigua and Barbuda are seen as small-medium size enterprises (SMEs) which are confronted with various operational, financial and technical challenges, which affect their ability to be competitive and innovative. However, the following strategies can be considered by the private sector to expand their export portfolio and market access opening: Enter into joint venture arrangements with similar national and regional businesses to improve competitiveness, and access to financial and technical resources. Develop business cluster activities to benefit from economies of scale. Improve the quality and standards of the production process and end product. Develop and implement business operation practices and strategies i.e. export, marketing and investment policies. Further integration in the regional trade agenda to ensure your interest is adequately represented. Infuse technology in the production and delivery of goods and services The trade challenges the private sector are confronted with includes the cost of inputs, border procedures at ports of entry, transportation and freight cost, and meeting of production and packing standards and technical specifications for export. Therefore, government as the chief implementer of the agreement should undertake, where necessary, the appropriate legislative, administrative and policy changes that will support the private sector efforts to trade. If the national trade mechanisms and support measures for the private sector are weak, it will negatively impact on their ability to invest, grow and trade. The private and public sector must mutually cooperate at all levels to realize comfortable levels of economic growth and sustainability in this evolving global economy, which is increasingly being built on trade, investments and other kinds of agreements with various regions and countries.
Contributed by the EPA Implementation Unit of Antigua and Barbuda

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