The EPA is the economic partnership agreement, a trade agreement signed in 2008 between CARIFORUM, which includes Belize and the European Union. It gives Cariforum goods free access into the EU - but on the flip side, EU goods will also in 25 years have access to Caribbean markets. That could be devastating so the EU is paying for nations to prepare for it. One such workshop was held today at the Biltmore and we found out more:..
Mike Singh - CEO, Ministry of Trade
"They've also put caviot on there that European goods would eventually have parity access into our markets phased in over a 25 year period. In order to offset what will happen 25 years from now - they've offer a series of benefits to the Cariforum countries. You might be familiar with the EDF (European Development Fund) which Belize benefitted from last year of about 11.8 million Euros; whether it's putting roads for the sugarcane farmers for access to their farms. Whether it's helping to develop capacity in agriculture and trade and so forth. It's a whole bundle of aid that is available to us to develop ourselves so that when the 25 year period ends - that we should be develop enough so that parity would not become an issue."
"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."
"We've met with everyone and we've explain what the obligations are. We explain to them what the opportunities are. Out of this we've now crafted a framework which will allow all the stakeholders to do their part in the implementation process."
"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."
The EPA was signed by 15 Caribbean countries and the EU. n 2011, trade between the two regions came to over 8 billion Euros.