On May 29, a validation meeting will be convened in Nassau, Bahamas, at which representatives from a cross section of national public/private sector and civil society institutions will be brought together for frank, comprehensive deliberations on the draft Bahamas national EPA implementation plan.
The validation meeting is a crucial step in the finalization of that plan, which — when it does come on stream — is expected to position The Bahamas to better coordinate its approach to implementing the provisions of the EPA, in terms of obligations and benefits.
Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services of The Bahamas, has said his government places great importance in the soon to be finalized Plan, as EPA implementation forms an important part of the country’s trade policy.
The EPA is a trade and development accord between the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM), of the one part, and the European Union (EU) and its member states, of the other part. Since respective states from both blocs signed the EPA, commitments fall to each of them with respect to the various provisions.
The draft EPA regional implementation road map document had been drawn up for CARIFORUM states, following the conclusion of negotiations, in order to identify the broad actions (chronologically) to be taken regarding EPA implementation at the national and regional levels. Drawing on this high level document, a number of national EPA implementation units and like entities sought to develop national EPA implementation plans. Consultants were retained to aid in this effort, which is made possible through funding under the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund).
The EPA Implementation Unit within the CARIFORUM Directorate of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat is integrally involved in lending technical support to the initiative, which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has a hand in backing.
The upcoming validation meeting in Nassau, at which staff of the CARICOM Secretariat-based EPA Implementation Unit and their Bahamian counterparts will be on hand, provides yet another opportunity for stakeholders to meet with the consultant. This time, the focus is squarely on the recently issued draft Bahamas national EPA implementation plan.
The meeting is a milestone in the consultancy, which commenced in March of this year and has been informed by a consultative process in the period since.
Amongst the tasks that fell to the consultant was assisting stakeholders in identifying and reaching consensus on the major elements of the national EPA implementation plan, including: (i) commitments to be satisfied and trade and investment opportunities to be explored; (ii) the major agencies required to contribute to the implementation process; (iii) specific actions to be taken to achieve compliance; (iv) milestones and performance indicators against which countries can monitor, evaluate and report on the implementation process; (v) realistic implementation timelines; (vi) resources required for implementation and strategies for meeting resource gaps; and (vii) framework for monitoring and reporting on the EPA implementation process.
The final Bahamas national EPA implementation plan is slated to be submitted to the government next month, and the expectation is that it will be given effect thereafter.
Just over a half-dozen CARIFORUM states stand to benefit from the national EPA implementation plan initiative.
The development of national EPA implementation plans is expected to bode well for regional states presently preparing to access the recently launched EPA standby facility for capacity building, a €3.5m fund administered by the CDB, with support from national authoring officers (NAOs) in respective states. The standby facility is in place for three years (December 2012 to December 2015), and is intended to assist CARIFORUM states by underpinning national institutional capacities.
The fifteen signatory CARIFORUM states to the EPA are the independent CARICOM member states and the Dominican Republic.