Belize prepares for EU/Caribbean Trade Agreement

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vlcsnap-2013-09-13-12h08m10s68EUFive years ago, the CARIFORUM countries and the European Union signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in which each grants the other access to their markets in all goods and services. The Agreement will be implemented in the next twenty-five years and a formal plan has been developed to steer development. Today both Government and private sector met in Belize City to discuss the plan moving forward. CEO in the Ministry of Trade Michael Singh spoke about the Agreement.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-12h11m20s246Mike Singh – CEO, Ministry of Trade:
This workshop today really is a report by the implementation unit of our Ministry, that is there to look at the agreement, to find areas where cooperation between Belize and Europe can happen, and what programs can we put in place to help us get ready for full implementation of EPA. Today we are going to be talking about some of the programs that are in place, evaluate the programs and validate whether we are going on the right track to get us ready for that inevitability.

While the EPA and its effects are inevitable, Belize can turn them around to its advantage. We spoke with the consultant who developed the national EPA implementation plan, Dr. Claudius Preville.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-12h15m14s35Dr. Claudius Preville:

How does Belize ensure that it walks away with the lion share of the cake as it were? Well Europe is market with 400 million people. Belize is less than half a million. Think about it. Any product that you can produce in Belize, you can produce as much as is conceivable. You will not be able to exhaust the demand in Europe. On the other hand, whatever Europe produces, it can only sell so many of those things in Belize, because the market is small.  By design the small countries should be the beneficiary, because the small country once it has in place all the right policies, the small country is able to sell much more goods and services in the large markets than the large country can sell services in the  small markets.  The agreement by design, with the appropriate safeguards, including technical assistance, training, etcetera, by design the agreement is going to benefit the small country more than the large country.

The European Union’s assistance, says Michael Singh, will help Belize open its markets elsewhere.

Mike Singh – CEO, Ministry of Trade:
What is the interesting thing about this program, because of the bundle of assistance that the European Union is giving us, it is actually helping us to  build capacity that we can use anywhere in the world.  I’ll give an example:  a part of the program pays for us to have a consultant that’s tied to the Ministry of trade, to help us to negotiate the Mexico/Belize partial scope agreement, which is upcoming fairly soon.  Even though it’s being funded by the European Union under this program, it is benefitting us to be able to build the platform for that partial scope agreement, that will allow us access into Mexico.

Michael Singh says Belize does not expect to change course politically as the plan enjoys bipartisan support.

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