Category: Connect Created on Friday, 06 July 2012 06:05
Despite recent assurances by Alexander Walford, policy officer in charge of Caribbean-European Union trade relations fears about revenue loss were misguided, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque has raised concerns about Europe's demand to reduce customs duties on their goods coming in to this region.
Speaking to the media during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Kingston, the Guyana-based Secretary General said Caribbean Forum countries (members of CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) should not sit back and allow the European Union (EU) to push countries into honouring their obligations under the European Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Under the agreement, signed in 2008 between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the EU, CARIFOUM countries agreed to start the reduction of customs duties on a number of catergories of Euroipean goods by January 2011. However, according to a report out of Belgium last week, the EU has been growing impatient with the pace at which this is progressing.
LaRocque told the media that the CARICOM secretariat was assisting member states of in "getting the correct legislation drafted" but noted that the bigger problem was that member states feared loss of revenue from lowering the tariffs.
"But the EU has sounded out and it is an international obligation," said LaRocque. "It's an obligation that was entered into by the community by the member states who signed on to the EPA. And the EU has raised it. They have heard of the (fiscal) challenges that are being faced by members. They have not taken any action on it. I think they are making some soundings which we must listen to and be a little more certain in trying to do what we are supposed to do," he added.
He said the secretariat, which has an EPA unit comprised of four highly skilled persons, was "very much involved" in discussions on the reduction in duties and working constantly with member states.
"It is an issue that all the member states derive a substantial amount of revenue from their tariffs. That is why in the EPA there is a provision that talks about restructuring your internal taxes, but they are not in tandem with each other. There is a horizon of some longer period to do that," said LaRocque.
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