Throughout 2007 close collaboration was sustained between the CHTA and the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) to allow the CHTA to continue to defend its recommendations on the liberalization of regional tourism services within the context of external trade negotiations that the Caribbean region is involved in.
Of highest priority during 2007 was the finalization of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM (CARICOM + the Dominican Republic) and the European Union (EU). On December 16th, 2007 the final EPA agreement was initialed by representatives of both sides after intense negotiations and only just meeting the looming deadline of the end of 2007. Please click here to read David Jessop’s article reviewing the landmark inclusion of tourism in the Caribbean EPA (downloadable pdf file).
CHTA’s activities with regard to trade negotiations commenced back in 2003 with input into and comment on the CRNM commissioned paper entitled “Tourism Services Negotiations: Implications for CARIFORUM.” This report and industry feedback on it led to the development of an official tourism private sector position to help Caribbean governments and their negotiators to develop a common regional approach to tourism services liberalization issues. These discussions and findings further allowed Caribbean negotiators to have a clear understanding of the significance of the tourism industry to the region and the challenges it faces, and factor it all in their trade negotiations on behalf of the Caribbean.
Subsequently, in January 2005, the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) approved CHTA’s position statement for adoption as the official negotiating position for Caribbean governments moving forward.
The CHTA took further initiative in 2006 by commissioning the production of a joint CHTA-CTO Position Paper on the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This paper presented on behalf of regional tourism stakeholders detailed recommendations and positions on how tourism services should be treated within the EPA agreement currently under development. Simultaneous with the production of the Position Paper, CHTA commission the production of a joint CHTA-CTO Tourism Annex with a view to ensuring that appropriate rules and positions governing tourism services would be integrated into the language of the actual EPA agreement.
Throughout 2007 the CHTA-CTO proposed EPA Position Paper and Annex were reviewed and discussed at the regional level. Following regional consultations a proposal on tourism services was taken forward by the CRNM and tabled in negotiations with the Europeans. The CHTA was pleased at the inclusion, sometimes verbatim, of its suggested text on:
- Competitive safeguards
- Access to and use of information e.g. CRS & GDS
- Mutual recognition of tourism professionals
- Sustainable tourism development
- Technical assistance
- Joint Committee on Tourism
During negotiations it was agreed between CARIFORUM and the EU to include Tourism as a chapter within the EPA agreement rather than a separate annex. This was received as a positive development given that tourism itself has never been included as a separately considered sector in any regional trading agreement in the past.
In the final agreement there are comprehensive rules for the tourism sector including those to safeguard the interests of the mainly small firms in the Caribbean by preventing large firms from behaving in an anti-competitive manner. There are also provisions for cooperation and mutual recognition of qualifications as well as technical assistance for the tourism sector. The EPA also has special provisions for Short Term Visitors for Business Purposes in the tourism sector as well as others.
Advocacy in action: Although the Caribbean EPA has been completed there remains work to be done which will require the ongoing involvement of the CHTA. For instance, details remain to be ironed out on the implementation of rules and requirements agreed to in the EPA and the overall management of the same. Where these pertain to tourism there will be the expectation that the CHTA will continue to be involved. Further, the mechanisms for the distribution and use of development financing is yet to be determined and again, as far as this pertains to the tourism sector CHTA will remain involved.
It is expected that the CHTA’s approach to inputting into the EPA negotiations will form a template approach which may be applied to other future trade negotiations such as the Region’s likely future discussions with Canada and the USA.