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Monday, 14 May 2012

ACP-EU updates: MFN clause, EP committees and SA message to Hollande

Despite vocal criticism of the EU, this is tempered by a number of positive notes. The former president of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, who warns on a weekly basis of the negative effects of the EPAs, emphasised last week that there exists a certain sympathy within the EU for Africa’s concerns, as the European Parliament committees on Development (DEVE) and International Trade (INTA) recently drafted proposals rejecting the proposal for the amendment of Regulation 1528/2007, which provides duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU market. Furthermore, he has noted that the EU will greatly benefit from African development and prosperity. "We trust therefore that the EU will heed ACP countries’ and Africa’s proposals for a mutually-beneficial partnership ahead", he stated.
However, concerns over the inclusion of  the most-favored-nation (MFN) clause in the EPAs did not go unnoticeable. According to The East African, the EU aims to restrain the bloc from making deals with emerging economies, particularly with China and India, as it would require that the EAC extend to the EU the same preferences granted to third parties. EAC stakeholders said the clause could severely weaken South-South trade. James Ndahiro, Rwanda’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly, stated  accordingly that the MFN clause should be removed or modified to restrict its application to agreements with more developed economies.
The latest events at the EP level made for some of the most reported-on stories this past week. The EP hosted conference highlighting the issue of the use of child labour on cocoa farms and called upon consumers to buy Fair Trade.  Participants at the event were shown a special film by CNN about child labour on West African cocoa farms, where tens of thousands of children are involved in backbreaking and sometimes dangerous work.
Moreover the EP approved the EC expenses for 2010, along with the finances of almost all other institutions, agencies, and notably the European Development Fund.
Given the situation in Somalia, where piracy has escalated and become a threat to regional stability, world trade, and all forms of maritime transport, MEPS called upon Member states to provide more material assistance and naval vessels to the operation ATALANTA, the European Naval Force launched in December 2008 and extended by the Council until the end of 2014. The EP also asked for more humanitarian assistance in order to improve the on-shore situation.
South Africa has also set the media abuzz. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe called upon Germany to invest in South Africa's massive state-led infrastructure drive. "We are targeting a range of areas, including roads, rail, ports, water infrastructure and telecommunications. To this end we wish to invite the government of Germany and German cooperates to participate in this important initiative," he stated.
Following Francois Hollande's takeover of the French presidency, South African President, Mr. Jacob Zuma said he looks forward to further strengthening  bilateral and trade relations between the two countries, as he emphasised the role of France in international fora. "On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, I congratulate Mr Francois Hollande on winning the French Presidential elections. We would like to take this opportunity to extend our congratulations to Mr Hollande and the people of France for a successful election," he stated.
The CTA –Brussels Office also updated its readers on the €89 million EU grant to Rwanda, which aims to support agricultural programmes focused on increasing nation-wide food production.
Other articles of note regarding the development community dealt with the future establishment of a new Center for European Studies in the Dominican Republic, and a high-level conference on the modernisation of Trade Defence Instruments (TDI),  held in Brussels, which brought together more than 240 stakeholders who discussed possible modifications to these defence instruments to allow them to function better in the current global trading environment.