Remarks by L. Ryan Pinder, Minister of Financial Services
The National Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation Unit Officially Opened
September 11, 2013
EPA and Implementation Consultations
In 2008, The Bahamas became a signatory to its first reciprocal trade agreement the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the trade agreement between members of the European Union and CARIFORUM, comprising of members of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic. In October 2012, the Government of The Bahamas finalized its commitments under the EPA and the Joint Council of Ministers of Trade under the EPA incorporated The Bahamas’ commitments on trade in services and trade in investment into the agreement.
In February 2013, The EPA Implementation Consultation began and was coordinated by CARTFund under the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), in conjunction with the CARIFORUM Regional Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation Unit and the Ministry of Financial Services with the mandate to develop a National Plan for The Bahamas on the Implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Over the period of four months, representatives of the public and private sectors engaged in bi-lateral meetings and multi-sectoral stakeholder meetings with the Ministry of Financial Services officials and international consultants to discuss the impact of EPA and offer recommendations for the National Implementation plan.
EPA Implementation Unit
With the responsibility to implement EPA, the Ministry of Financial Services is proud to announce the establishment of the National Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation Unit. The National EPA Implementation Unit will be headed by Ms. Keva Bain, Acting Director of Trade and Industry, and will have dedicated officers from the Ministry of Financial Services inclusive of Ms. Rita Kauffman supported Ms. Karla Wells and Ms. Tia Hanna. The establishment of a National EPA Implementation Unit was one of the main recommendations outlined in the consultancy report. The National EPA Implementation Unit’s objective is to provide technical support and education resources to intergovernmental agencies and the private sector to facilitate trade under the EPA and overall coordination of the implementation EPA obligations. In addition, the National EPA Implementation Unit will be responsible for:
· Development and implementation of a Communications Strategy;
· Coordination of the monitoring and evaluation process;
· Identification of EPA Implementation related technical cooperation needs and development of appropriate project funding proposals;
· Participation in regional implementation efforts insofar as is possible given The Bahamas’ non-participation in the CSME; and
· Cooperation with the private sector to increase business opportunities in CARIFORUM and the EU.
To support the mandate of the National EPA Implementation Unit, the Government of the Bahamas has applied for preliminary grant funding which will support the development and implementation of a Communications Strategy, training and securing technical support for implementation.
EPA Opportunities and Education
The EPA provides many opportunities for economic growth for The Bahamas through international trade, market access and other economic partnerships. The implementation of the EPA will cause for domestic businesses to have access to larger markets, reduced tariffs and quotas, creating new and expanded opportunities for Bahamian businesses in the global marketplace. More specifically, Bahamian business will now have access to a European clientele. EPA provides the opportunity for businesses to have global clients at their fingertips.
Through on going initiatives the government is committed to educational initiatives and consultations to engage all stakeholders and interested persons. Today I must applaud the Bahamas Customs Department led by Customs Comptroller Mr. Turner for their initiative to host a workshop today, in their effort to educate local brokers on the guidelines for EPA preferential rates and reductions on tariffs. This initiative led by the Bahamas Customs Department was the first initiative supported by the newly formed EPA Implementation Unit. It is important that initiatives like these continue within the public and private sectors.
The EPA will provide expanded opportunities for Bahamian businesses, both in the trade of goods and services. The National EPA Implementation Unit created within the Ministry of Financial Services, in partnership with the Bahamas Trade Commission, is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the public and private sectors have the technical support and knowledge to be fully integrated into the process. In our Charter for Governance, we made the following commitment to the Bahamian people: “The PLP will ensure that the Bahamian people are made aware of the terms and full implication of various trade agreements undertaken by The Bahamian Government. This would extend to a deliberate and sustained plan to integrate these agreement into everyday business activity in The Bahamas.” The National EPA Implementation Unit is a significant part of this commitment to the Bahamian people.