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Thursday, 01 July 2010

ACP Council held in Ouagadougou discussed EPAs and Sugar

The African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers met in Quagadougou, Burkina Faso from the 17th –19th June, 2010.  The Joint ACP-EU Council will also hold their Meeting from the 21st – 22nd June, 210. The ACP Council discussed several important issues including the status of the Economic Parthership Agreements (EPAs), trade in bananas, sugar and cotton, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals.
Not unlike previous Council Meetings, the EPAs generated much discussion. Since the EPA process was launched eight years ago, only 27 of the 78 ACP countries have signed full or interim agreements including the CARIFORUM group.
An additional 9 have simply initialled Agreements.  Member States of the various groupings expressed concern regarding the many issues that still remain unresolved including Most Favored Nation (MFN), Rules of Origin, market access, export taxes and the need to be sure of the net fiscal impact on the economy before agreements on the reduction of tariffs.
These were the very issues that Guyana had raised prior to signing the EPA but eventually had to sign to avoid trade disruptions, as was the case with several others who signed or initialled interim Agreements. The EU is being asked to revisit some of these conditions which the ACP finds difficult to accept.
It should be noted that the other five negotiating groups are advocating for an automatic five year review to be included in the EPAs.  It was Guyana that had advocated for this provision for the CARIFORUM EPA.
It was expected that there will be a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs at the end of the Joint Council. However, Minister Rodrigues-Birkett expressed the view to her colleagues that such a Declaration will not encapsulate most of the concerns expressed by Members States in the several hours of discussion.
She indicated that while efforts should be made to find common ground on a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs and indeed on the issues that remain unresolved, it is incumbent on the ACP Council to itself issue a Declaration. This suggestion received widespread support from the Member States and an ACP Declaration is being finalized.

The ACP group noted that the European Commission had concluded negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the Group of Central American countries, which include concessions on market access for sugar and which will further erode the preferences accorded to ACP countries in their respective EPAs thus adversely affecting their competitiveness.
They expressed concern that the European Commission failed to properly consult the ACP on these trade arrangements as called for by the Cotonou Agreement and the EPAs.
The group took note that the European Union has begun the process of reforming their Common Agricultural Policy for 2013 and called for the EU to ensure that the ACP producers, along with the EU producers, be provided with fair, stable and reasonably remunerative EU market prices and guaranteed priority access.
They also called for the European Union and the Commission to “take into account the fact that major investments in sugarcane industries are amortized over long periods, hence the need for continuing preferential sugar access beyond 2015.”
They further asked that the EU and the Commission “ensure that the new provision of the Cotonou Agreement regarding the need to review support programmes such as the Accompanying Measures Support Programme with a view to deciding on appropriate additional measures to be implemented is respected in order to guarantee EC’s commitment to continue to support the ACP Commodity Sector, including sugar, beyond 2013.