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Laing: Some EPA benefits already apparent

State Minister for Finance Zhivargo Laing has asserted that some benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreement(EPA) with the European Union have already begun to manifest, and more will materialize in roughly two years.

“Some benefits are in effect now because we are able to export lobster duty free,”he toldGuardian Businessin a recent interview.”There are some European imports that can come into The Bahamas duty free now. The EPA has a basket of goods that say these things come in five years, these things in ten years and so on.

“We are still in the three-year window where there is not much left in reduction that had to be done. We’re now restructuring Customs to be able to accommodate those items so you have another schedule that relates to European imports in Customs scheduling. So we’re doing the legislative things that we are supposed to be doing.”

He said a competition commission was indeed in the works and that the”precursor to that was the competition law,”which still has to be done.

Several members of the financial services industry recently raised concerns about a lack of information on the agreement, with investment

specialist for the CARICOM Implementation Unit Allyson Francis arguing that the private sector needs to increase its knowledge about the EPA given the important role of that sector.

“In terms of challenges my major concern is awareness from the private sector about what the EPA involves,”Francis said earlier.”It’s a challenge for the region in terms of changing our mindset and being more proactive, and understanding the global environment we’re living in now and to position ourselves, we can’t necessarily sit back and wait on government to do things for us.

“I hope that at the end of the day a better understanding of the agreement will help the Bahamas business sector to be able to do that.”

The EPA creates a free trade area between the European Union(EU)and the African, Caribbean and Pacific(ACP)group of nations. The Bahamas signed the EPA agreement as a part of the CARIFORUM sub-group within the ACP on October 15, 2008, however Article 63 of that agreement allowed The Bahamas and Haiti to have their commitments on services and investment incorporated into the EPA following a decision of the CARIFORUM-EC Trade and Development Committee. Negotiations related to services were completed on January 25, 2010.

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