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Trade and Regional Integration

OCTs of the EU share a number of common characteristics while being distinctly heterogeneous in their trade policy interests. OCTs are small islands, located in remote areas, with a restricted local market, far from major markets and with limited and expensive access to international shipping. They remain remarkably vulnerable to exogenous shocks (e.g. climatic and economic) and highly depend on trade with their neighboring markets and the EU for domestic consumption or inputs for their industry.

The European Union (EU) and the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) have a common interest in joining forces to address the challenges and opportunities stemming from globalisation. The trade policy of the EU has progressively led to an erosion of tariff preferences for the OCTs and exposed them to a direct competition with third countries producing at lower cost. In this context, efforts to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth, and improve the competitiveness of OCTs are all the more urgent. The assets of OCTs should be promoted taking into account their constraints and regional contexts. With the support of Europe, OCTs are taking steps to strengthen their economic and social systems and their competitiveness, by proposing and implementing projects. However, it is a long-term challenge that should be targeted as one of the objectives of the EU-OCT partnership.

To prevent or mitigate economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities of OCTs, which stands as obstacles to sustainable development, the development potential of economic green growth should also be explored.

Nevertheless, while export –oriented growth strategies are beneficial for OCTs, the strategies developed by some of them to consolidate their domestic markets should be acknowledged and supported.

In parallel, regional cooperation and integration are major assets. In fact, some territories strategically located and could play a central role in furthering the development of EU’s regional or bi-regional strategies and partnerships.

OCTs believe that their partnerships with the European Union should also be built on the recognition of their economic challenges.

Finally, echoing the position of the EU, OCTA stresses the importance of competitiveness, vulnerability and regional cooperation which, in its view, are the main priorities of the new partnership with UE.