Bad agreement for the Caribbean

Ambassador Daniela Tramacere, head of the European Union delegation to the region, has recently publicly challenged my assessment of the region’s trade agreement with the EU. The trade agreement is called the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and I determined that it was not in the Caribbean’s favour.

Ambassador Tramacere recited several parts of the Agreement that were beneficial to the region. I agree that there are many aspects of the trade agreement that are favourable to the Caribbean region. There had to be a great many beneficial aspects in order to balance the few critically damaging aspects. Surprisingly, the Ambassador actually specified one damaging part of the Agreement, namely, that a Barbadian company “can send certain employees to the EU to provide these services for up to six months at a time.”

The EPA actually notes that the contract cannot exceed a duration of 12 months, and the employee cannot remain in the EU state beyond a cumulative period of 6 months. What is the trade impact of these crucial barriers? It essentially disqualifies persons in the construction industry from providing their services in Europe for any project over the scale of a house.

The normal profit margin for working on a house would be used to pay for travelling and accommodation expenses in Europe. Therefore, Caribbean construction professionals are unlikely to be competitive in small projects. Caribbean construction professionals can be competitive on projects that cost tens of millions of dollars at the scale of a hotel, airport, sea-port, highway, hospital, etc. However, the contract duration of such projects exceed one year – which effectively disqualifies Caribbean companies.

Just in case a Caribbean company were to be competitive on a lucrative 11-month consultancy project, the EPA effectively disqualifies that company with the six-month residency limit. A Caribbean consulting company would normally have one highly qualified key professional in each consulting discipline, with several junior professionals. However, in competitive tendering, the qualifications of the most senior staff are used.

By limiting residency in the EU to 6 months, the Caribbean company would need to provide two highly qualified professionals for every competitive key post. This would require that the company approach a Caribbean competitor to share the project. Further, it is not like a relay race where one simply hands over the project baton at the end of 6 months. To limit liabilities and mistakes, both senior professional persons would need to be working on the same project from the beginning. This is not only highly inefficient, but it will ensure that the Caribbean’s tender is uncompetitive since it could include double fees for each residency post.

Despite the Ambassador’s defence of the EPA, the evidence is clear – after 10 years of the Agreement, the promised benefits have not been realized. Why? Because our most lucrative industry was classified as “sunset”, and sacrificed for the risky “sunrise” cultural industries. The EU actively encourages our risky and least-likely-to-be-competitive “sunrise” industries. Why? Because they have the real prize – construction.

Perhaps the Ambassador is unaware that the EU has won and we have lost. I cannot fault her or the E, for they were negotiating for their interests and not ours. We lost because our approach to negotiating trade agreements is fatally flawed – which the EU negotiators must have realized very early in the negotiating process. The EU has secured the Caribbean for their children, while we have given up our children’s inheritance.

There are other disqualifying aspects of the trade agreement that are just as damaging. If the Ambassador sincerely believes that the trade agreement is actually in our favour, then if it is found to be as damaging as I have described, would she be willing to allow the region to correct our grave mistake and renegotiate its most damaging aspects?

(Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at

10 Responses to Bad agreement for the Caribbean

  1. Walter Prescod March 22, 2017 at 9:50 am

    You hit the nail on its head.

  2. Alex Alleyne March 22, 2017 at 11:46 am

    List “ONE” that was ever any good, from where ever.

  3. BimJim March 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    This continues to highlight our overall political incompetence – political expertise, but not a scratch of common sense. For such negotiations we have seen that a Prime Minister would reserve such a chair for him- or her-self, or send a high-ranking Minister if they are unable to spare the time.

    Question: What qualifications in negotiating skills does a politician earn while becoming elected?
    Answer: None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Double-nought

    But you can bet your Bippy that those who negotiate on behalf of the EU are not politicians but specialised negotiators who have spent their lifetimes between training and experience on such skills, and they will have been thoroughly briefed on which priorities the EU hold dear and MUST be brought home.

    When these folks start negotiating with our Third World Big-Up politician felons whose sole purpose in life is to gain power, money and influence, they are truly like suckers at a casino table getting a dollar here and there for every hundred they put on the table.

    When we negotiate – as countries or as a region – with such highly trained and skilled people it is truly surprising we get anything at all. But like when you go to the casino the free drinks make you think you broke even when you leave.

    A euphoria which tends to persist until you get back home and your spouse wants to know where all the money went.

  4. Bobo March 22, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Right on Bim Jim–that’s why we need Barbados Solutions-G Phillips a man of international experience–his future colleagues trained and skilled business men –Bim Jim ”Great Knowledge is Power” Vote G Phillips

  5. jrsmith March 22, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    We had decades to fix the problems with the (EU), but we never learnt anything , we never gain any political or financial strength ,whether singly or regional togetherness..
    The surviving issue for Barbados is to keep very close to the (UK) and watch and learn from a non politician (Donald Trump ) ,we should not waste time worrying about (EU), that wouldn’t last very long its an old communist block gradually putting itself back together, the best thing ever happen to the (UK) getting out……..

  6. David Hall March 22, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    You are very true; Europeans through this deal, have reserved the Caribbean for themselves, their children and their families while we have sacrificed our inheritance.

  7. Darren March 22, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    “The EU has secured the Caribbean for their children, while we have given up our children’s inheritance.” –> I’d rather say “The EU has secured the Caribbean for their wealthy children”. These deals benefit mostly the wealthiest and it also true in Europe.

  8. Alex Alleyne March 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    The persons adding their 2 cents worth here are the one’s that care about BIM. I have been checking for years and have not come across such great comments ever listed for one article.
    P/S Missing is PETER & JENNIFIER .
    I have no idea about the person writing the article, so don’t side me with any party,,,,,,PLEASE.

  9. Mikey March 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    @Alex Alleyne,, why you people are so fast to say “not connected to any party” but then go and vote for the same clowns every time ???
    Please vote for fresh ideas and new people like Solutions Barbados and Mr. Grenville Philipps

  10. Robert toussaint March 27, 2017 at 11:24 am

    please let us act with our pen x


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