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EU-ACP Assembly Expected To Reach Interim Trade Deal

by Philip Morton, Investors Offshore.com

21 November 2007


The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), which brings together 78 MEPs and 78 parliamentarians from the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, is meeting in Kigali (Rwanda) this week to ask for extra time to negotiate a deal on the ACP-EU economic partnership agreements, for which a World Trade Organisation waiver expires at the end of 2007.

The EU and around 80 countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of former European colonies have until the end of this year to agree upon new Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

With regard to the EPAs, the Joint Assembly is expected to adopt the “Kigali Declaration”, which would follow up the Cape Town Declaration of 2002, at the start of the EPA negotiating process. The Declaration is likely to call on the European Commission to recognise that ACP countries need more time to assess the implications of the proposed agreements.

The Assembly may also voice concern that if new agreements are not put in place, duties could be imposed on many exports from non-least developed (non-LDC) ACP states from 1 January 2008, threatening the incomes of millions of ACP workers.

Commenting this week on the need for a new deal, ACP-EU Co-President Glenys Kinnock (European Parliament) observed that:

“The new arrangements should provide long term trade security and address some of the constraints that impede development. However, attempts to frame such agreements have proved difficult. This is largely because the Commission negotiators have approached the talks on EPAs as if they were conventional free trade negotiations focused on market opening, rather than as tools for development."

"The ACP regions, on the other hand, have been concerned that the measures proposed by the Commission will not have their intended outcomes and could well jeopardise their development efforts, and hamper efforts to eradicate poverty."

Ms. Kinnock concluded by stating that: "I trust we shall have in our Kigali Declaration a reference to the fact that the EU is actually obliged by Article 37 (6) of Cotonou to provide continual access for the non-LDC countries, on at last as favourable terms, whether or not they are able to conclude an EPA.”

It is thought that after half a decade of negotiations, the EU and many of the ACP countries will be obliged to settle for interim, goods-only deals, and possibly with only some countries in the regions.

Caribbean Net News this week quoted Erastus Mwencha, secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), as observing that an interim deal would be "a good start".

"We will have this interim arrangement for one year and we hope we can engage in constructive negotiations to finish everything by next year and sign for all issues that are being discussed in trade," he added.

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