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Creative mechanisms required to make service providers competitive – CARICOM Ambassador


Posted in: Regional News | 18 October 2016 | 1446

    Dr. Clarence Henry Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM)
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    Dr. Clarence Henry Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM)

    … there is need for us to turn the market access opportunities provided under the CSME, the OECS Economic Union and the EPA into market presence and penetration.

    The challenge here is that many of our service providers are small micro enterprises that have significant internal capacity constraints.

    The recommendations and Action Plan emanating from this Symposium should also address such difficulties. Creative technical and financial mechanisms must be established to address our structural innate business challenges that would enable our service providers to become competitive.

    Dr. Clarence Henry, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to CARICOM, addressing the Opening Ceremony, Regional Symposium on the Services Sector, 17-19 October, Antigua and Barbuda.

    Read full address:

    Remarks
    by
    Dr. Clarence Henry
    Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM)

    In the interest of time, all protocols observed.

    First, let me join with the Master of ceremony in welcoming you to Antigua and Barbuda and this symposium on services.

    I am pleased at the privilege afforded me as the country’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, to participate in this Opening Ceremony.

    This pleasure is derived in part, from the fact that it is the second such symposium on services being held in Antigua. The inaugural symposium was held in 2009, which provided much analysis on the critical importance of services to the economic wellbeing of the region.

    I also wish to acknowledge the work of the CARICOM Secretariat in advancing the regional services agenda.

    I also commend the officials from Member States and Agencies, who continue to work steadfastly in the vineyard of CARICOM, and its Organs to advance the regional architecture for services.

    Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Measures relating to the services sector are located in Article 148 in Part 2 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. As you are aware, the Council for Trade and Economic Development, (COTED) is the Organ of the Community with lead responsibility for services. The COTED has focused on the sector at many of its meetings. However, I wish to zeroing on the Twenty-Eighth Meeting held in October 2009, when Ministers agreed to establish a Regional Services Project Steering Committee consisting of high-level officials of Member States, to among other things, formally consider and make recommendations on the outcomes of the Regional Symposium, oversee, at the regional level, the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the Regional Plan for Services and establish a National Coordinating Committee (NCC), consisting of representatives of national services coalition, Ministries and Agencies dealing with Services, to oversee the work at the national level.

    It was then, the region commenced a process towards the development of several Regional Services Strategies in a number of sectors that are of significant economic importance to our respective economies. The pursuit of this objective was against the backdrop that the region had a comparative advantage in many of the services sectors which were identified as priorities. Thus the objectives that were pursued at the first Regional Symposium was the development of a Services Action Plan that would have given life to the services provisions of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I do not believe we have fully achieved the objectives and targets we set ourselves when we launched that aggressive Services Work Programme in 2009.

    Consequently, I challenge you to critically examine and review the outcomes from the 2009 Symposium, while setting new attainable targets that will reposition various services sector to compete in a rapidly changing global environment.

    Honorable Ministers, Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen:

    When the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, following upon the recommendations of the 31st COTED in 2010, identified the priority sectors, it was from the realization that many of our countries rely heavily on services for their survival. Several programmes have been implemented to strengthen the national services coalitions and the regional network of coalitions, to place them on a stronger path to sustainability.

    Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Therefore, during this symposium, the expectation is that information would be given with respect to the completion of the Regional Strategic Plans for: Financial Services; ICT; Professional Services, Entertainment, cultural and Sporting Services, with a view to boosting the economic performance of these sectors.
    The services sector plays a major role in the economic wellbeing of CARICOM. This is seen in its contribution to investment and employment. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, with lead responsibility for trade in services within the CARICOM Heads-of-Government Quasi-Cabinet, has assisted in promoting the policy agenda by hosting a number of conferences. Indeed, the financial and tourism services sectors are of particular importance to the economic base of many of our territories. For example, in Antigua and Barbuda these services account for a significant portion of our Gross Domestic Product.

    Through the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement, this country has benefitted from technical cooperation assistance from the EU that has greatly assisted with the review and modernization of the legal framework as it relates to our trade obligations in the areas of services, investment and standards.

    Moreover, the support from our development partners have allowed us to make significant progress with the implementation of the regions Work Programme.

    To this end, the Caribbean Export Development Agency is currently implementing a project to the tune of 3.2 million Euro, specifically targeted at creating greater access to international markets for regional service providers. This is within the context of the EPA Agreement.

    Additionally, through the EPA and CSME Stand-by Facility created within the 10th EDF Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme allocation, many member states are implementing projects at the national level which target different aspects of development for service providers in various key sectors.

    With the continuous implementation of the EPA Agreement, Antigua and Barbuda is positioned to benefit from other forms of country assistance through the CRIP and the Multi-Country Programme financed by the EU.

    Colleagues, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Notwithstanding the aforementioned, we must in our regional approach find appropriate mechanisms that would directly assist in addressing national capacity constraints.
    It is important to recall that at the Five Year Review of the implementation of the EPA, the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) of CARICOM have benefitted the least. Why is that? The technical Report on the Five Year Review identified the limited access to finance, management and operation structures, insufficient market intelligence, high operational cost, lack of appropriate technology as some of the internal capacity issues that confront us. Most of the challenges identified in the Report pointed to issues that can only be addressed through direct intervention at the business level. Therefore, we must ensure that while we develop regional approaches, there must be direct national impact.

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I recall the days, the different battles within COTED, CARIFORUM and even with the European Union, Antigua and Barbuda took a lead role in defending our services sector. While many have mineral resources, countries like ours especially within the OECS continue to rely on the human resources and skills of our people, to develop niche opportunities providing much needed employment for thousands while contributing millions to our economies.

    However, the Community continues to face challenges, old and new, from external sources including standards setting bodies which seemingly are bent on destroying every new economic empowerment tool created so that the Caribbean could diversify into services, rather than an over reliance on donor assistance. Today, the Caribbean Community is dealing with the challenges of de-risking which threaten our very survival. This action alone have the potential to cripple our economies and all of the services sectors we are seeking to advance through the development and implementation of Strategic Plans. If we do not have a secure and stable international financial environment within which to conduct business, the services sectors will all experience significant development challenges, if we simply cannot move money.

    Colleagues:

    This issue must not only be looked at in regards to the financial services sector, but must be a feature of all services sectors we have identified as priorities. No matter how small our business operations, we do utilize corresponding banking to conduct some aspect of business.

    Therefore, it is for these reasons that Prime Minister, Hon. Gaston Browne has been spearheading the region’s aggressive approach to prevent further loss of correspondent banking across CARICOM.

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    There are other external events that have the potential to impact our trade relation, such as the recent BREXIT vote in the United Kingdom. Once the UK’s exit from the European Union is successfully negotiated, new political and trade relations with the UK would be formed. With this view, CARICOM must proactively begin to craft the type of relationship we desire to have with the UK.

    Consider also the great uncertainty surrounding the end to the preferential arrangements provided under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement in 2020. The region cannot afford to adopt a wait and see approach with this issue. We must know what we want, develop and advance it.

    Honorable Ministers, Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen:

    Since our economic survival depends on our response to these challenges, we cannot be passive.
    Our response must be creative and precise. We must take bold decisions that protect our interest. Therefore, this Symposium presents another opportunity to critically assess where we are now, where we want to be, and the risks that confronts us. As regional services stakeholders both from the public and private sectors, we have one mandate and that is ensuring our continued economic growth.

    However, there is need for us to turn the market access opportunities provided under the CSME, the OECS Economic Union and the EPA into market presence and penetration. The challenge here is that many of our service providers are small micro enterprises that have significant internal capacity constraints. The recommendations and Action Plan emanating from this Symposium should also address such difficulties. Creative technical and financial mechanisms must be established to address our structural innate business challenges that would enable our service providers to become competitive.

    Friends:

    It is now up to us, to work together in achieving the objectives set out in our very comprehensive Agenda for the next day and a half.

    In Closing:

    I wish to acknowledge the hard work done by the CARICOM Secretariat, assisted on the ground here by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration, and the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Industry in preparation for this symposium.

    May God continue to bless us, and bless our respective nations as we endeavour to advance and create a sound regionally competitive and globally ready services sector.

    Mr. Chairman, Honorable Ministers and officials, with those words, I wish you a productive and rewarding session, and I pledge my support to ensure the success of the symposium.

    I thank you.

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