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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Extended access to EU markets for ACP exporters

The European Parliament agreed on 17th April to extend by nine months until 1st October 2014 the preferential trade access provided to 17 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that will have not ratified the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU.The 17 countries are Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, the Comoros, Fiji, Ghana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. 
The Parliament had adopted in a first reading in September 2012 a January 2016 deadline, to allow more “breathing space”.

A European Commission proposal, tabled in 2011, to amend the Market Access Regulation governing the trade conditions for developing countries which have negotiated Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU, had foreseen an earlier deadline of 1st January 2014.      EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are trade and development agreements which take account of ACP socio-economic circumstances and include co-operation and assistance to help ACP countries to implement the Agreements. Negotiations for EPAs began in 2002 and at the end of 2007, in order to meet a World Trade Organisation deadline and avoid trade disruption, 36 ACP countries signed either a full or interim EPA.  

The 2007 Market Access Regulation allowed exports from these 36 countries to continue to enter the EU duty free and quota free on the basis that a country could be removed where it indicated that it intended not to ratify its full or interim EPA or where ratification had not taken place within a reasonable timeframe. The 2011 proposal from the European Commission would have seen duty free and quota free market access under an EPA withdrawn from  the 17 countries by 1st January 2014 if they had not taken the necessary steps to ratify or conclude an EPA by then. Negotiations for full regional EPAs are ongoing with African and Pacific countries.

To the secretary general of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, the deadline does harm to the countries involved by forcing them to ratify interim EPA agreements which are counterproductive to regional integration. On the eve of the decisive vote in the European parliament on the market access regulation (1528/2007) he called on the EU MPs to refrain from taking action, as it was considered that voting for the regulation would be to the detriment of the ACP states concerned, and could have been considered as a pressure:“The states are encouraged to trade with the European Union but not amongst themselves,” he said.
Launched in 2002, negotiations over parallel regional EPAs are ongoing in five African subregions. They aim to liberalise the trade in goods, as well as services, investment, and market access rules. But discussions have stalled on several points, including the suspension of free trade following human rights abuses.
Under the current agreement, the African countries benefit from very favourable terms compared to their international competitors for exports to Europe notably of certain foodstuffs, including bananas, tuna, beef and sugar.


Source: Irish Presidency of the EU, Euractiv

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