Implementing the EPA

Implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement

In recent months I have been one of several members of the Creative Industries who have been funded and/or are seeking funding through one of the several Clusters supported by the European Union through Jamaica Trade & Invest (JTI). The Clusters of the Visual & Performing Arts (including Film), Fashion, Authors & Publishers all have been using various options for production, marketing, training and outreach supported by generous budgets available on application from the EU agreements.

As the Creative Industries stand to benefit greatly from the provisions of the EPA, and curious to hear what Prime Minister Golding had to say on the topic, I attended (uninvited) the opening day of a Conference held in Kingston on Implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement between CARICOM countries and the EU.

As the Prime Minister explained several ways in which the EPA will strengthen CARICOM markets, I was surprised – nay, shocked! — to see that I was the only member of the Jamaican creative industries present in the room. The bullet list of co-operation commitments to CARICOM in the EPA highlights cultural cooperation in the film/audio-visual, performing arts, fashion and publishing industries, yet no representative from these were present, despite the active work already being done by members of these industries to export their work and products to EU countries.

One bright light shone during the day’s long list of presenters: Josanne Leonard of Trinidad’s Miribai Communications, an experienced and passionate veteran of Caribbean cultural activism, who gave a heartfelt presentation in which she stated her equal surprise at the absence of Jamaica’s cultural practitioners at the event. Grasping the crux of the matter, Ms. Leonard stated that the EPA needs to be explained to the region’s population in ways and media they can understand, rather than at meetings where heads of regional organisations talk together. Pointing out that the Caribbean’s creative industries were already interacting with Europe through co-productions in music, film and fashion, she begged for a new approach using popular Internet media to communicate the important message of the Economic Partnership Agreement.

The absence of Jamaica’s official cultural representatives was embarrassing. I later learnt that the conference was being transmitted live on PBCJ, but as there was no prior notice in the media of this coverage, I doubt that the message was received by those who need to hear it. Let’s hope Josanne Leonard’s recommendations are implemented for the next round of information on the EPA. Her presentation showed that the region’s creative industries would benefit greatly if CARICOM engaged her strong advocacy and knowledge of cultural matters more often and more officially to represent our region’s interests.

I hope the Prime Minister’s excellent speech is repeated often enough for Jamaicans to hear his careful explanation of just what the EPA is, and what benefits Jamaica can gain from it.

BARBARA BLAKE HANNAH
Jamaica Media Productions

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