by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels
The Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Commission on March 29, 2012, signed three financial agreements, which will provide Caribbean nations with additional funding to facilitate regional integration, and for reforms to ensure the Caribbean trade bloc can take full advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement in place with the European Union.
With a total value of EUR82.6m (USD110m), the financing agreements provide European Commission support for, among other things, the economic integration of and the enhancement of trade relations between the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; the further development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy CSME); and the implementation commitments under the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement.
The long-standing CSME is the region’s flagship trade program which has significantly reduced multilateral trade tariffs within the Caribbean bloc. The agreement provides that a common external tariff will be in place on goods traded with nations outside the region to promote equal trade opportunity, the free circulation of goods imported from extra-regional sources – an arrangement which allows for the taxation of goods on entry at consistent rates within the bloc, with provisions for the sharing of collected customs revenue between states party to the agreement. A report in February 2012 highlighted that although the CSME was functioning there are gaps in the legislative and institutional/infrastructural framework that need to be addressed.
The European Commission has also allocated funding to ensure that CARIFORUM nations can take full advantage of the provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreement and to honour its commitments made therein. The EPA, in place since 2008, significantly liberalises the trade regime between the trade blocs. The new funding will support Caribbean efforts for fiscal reform and adjustment; reforms to its trade regime relating to sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, services, the rum sector; and to support efforts to remove technical barriers to trade.
Welcoming the signing of the agreements, the European Union’s representative to CARICOM, Robert Kopechy, said, the funds are “a testimony of the European Union’s continued commitments to support the Caribbean Region in the dynamic process of regional integration and signal another milestone in the long-standing relation between the Caribbean Forum of African, Carribean and Pacific group of states and the European Union.”