Trade Agreement EU stimulates Caribbean's creative industry

May 2009 -

The cultural sector has long been ignored in international trade agreements established between the European Union (EU) and developing countries. For the first time ever, The Caribbean Region agreement offers culture significant commercial opportunities.

Experts took a look at the final results in Jamaica early in 2009. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that the Cariforum region entered into with the European Union in March 2008 has given Caribbean artists more possibilities for conquering the European market with their creations and productions. The national treasuries in the region also enjoyed euro revenues: the culture industry is now one of the most important sectors generating earnings in foreign currencies.

The countries that make up the Cariforum made their viewpoint perfectly clear during the 2007 negotiations: no EPA if the sector in which they shine on a global scale is not included. "There are Jamaican artists whose annual income is greater than that of the banana industry," said Sydney Bartley, director at the Ministry of Culture during a seminar in Kingston in January 2009. He believes that the creative industry has proven its ability to create prosperity and help reduce poverty.

That tenaciousness resulted in no less than four agreement sections on culture. The audio-visual industry, for example, now has access to European funds if a co-production agreement is established with European producers. Now it is also easier to export films, CDs and other creative products to Europe. The free trade agreement also has provisions intended to stimulate contact between theatre makers and dancers from both regions as well as expertise in the area of cultural heritage.

There are still some areas of concern, however, such as the visa regulations for performing artists. Individual access to the EU market is not regulated by trade but by the immigration authorities, who currently apply security measures that are more strict.

The EPA is a plan that continues in the direction taken in the Cotonou Agreement, with the intention of creating a free trade zone between the EU and six regional groups of developing countries. The agreement with the Cariforum is the first complete EPA. Negotiations are still on-going with the five other regions in Africa and the Pacific.