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EC Urged To Give ACP States More Negotiating Time

Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

26 June 2012

The trade committee of the European Parliament has called on the European Commission (EC) to give African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries two more years for negotiations on their Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) before withdrawing their free access to the European Union (EU) market.

The committee voted to extend the 2014 deadline proposed by the EC and give ACP countries until 2016 to ratify their EPAs before losing the right to duty-and-quota-free access to the EU that they have been enjoying since 2007.

36 ACP countries have been able to access EU markets freely under the Market Access Regulation since the EU negotiated interim EPAs with them in 2007 at the end of the Cotonou trade regime, even though they were not ready to apply the EPAs in full and ratify them.

Currently, a number of them have still not taken the steps needed to ratify their EPAs, and the EC wants to switch eight of them - Botswana and Namibia plus six poorer countries, namely, Cameroon, Fiji, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Swaziland - to other, less advantageous, preference schemes.

Under the EC's proposal, any of the countries concerned could be re-instated in the Market Access Regulation through a fast-track procedure if they decided to take steps to ratify their EPAs. However, MEPs say that, as these countries are still grappling with development needs and poverty and would be hit by sharply reduced access to EU markets, they need until 2016 to prepare for the EPAs.

"2014 is simply not a fair or realistic deadline for these ACP countries to have finalized and ratified EPAs," said the rapporteur, David Martin (Socialists and Democrats group, UK), while noting that unlimited preferences were not a sustainable option either.

Another nine ACP countries - the poorest in the group - will not be affected by the new arrangements as they continue to benefit from the EU's Everything But Arms duty-free, quota-free scheme for the least-developed countries. They are Burundi, Comoros, Haiti, Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

TAGS: Haiti | tax | European Commission | Swaziland | tariffs | trade treaty | Comoros | Fiji | Lesotho | Mozambique | agreements | Botswana | Cameroon | Kenya | Namibia | Rwanda | Uganda | Zambia | import duty | trade | European Union (EU) | Burundi | Ghana | Tanzania | Europe

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