’ACP countries won’t bow to EU pressure’

The Herald, Zimbabwe

’ACP Countries Won’t Bow to EU Pressure’

By Victoria Ruzvidzo

14 June 2012

Port Vila — The African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries has said it would not bow to pressure by the European Union to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements, until there is a mutually beneficial position that does not threaten regional integration.

Briefing journalists at the end of the ACP Council of Ministers meeting here yesterday, the president of the council, Mr Alva Baptiste, said the ACP needed the EU and vice versa, but certain contentious issues relating to the EPAs needed to be ironed out first.

He said his organisation was not happy with its European partner’s seeming impatience.

"The EU must not put undue pressure on our members to sign. All the time, we want to negotiate with patience and persistence. So we will continue to engage the EU until the agreement is reached," said Mr Baptiste. .

"But we shall not be forced into signing until our concerns are addressed. There is so much at play in terms of regional integration and the need to put the right infrastructure in our economies before we open up."

The EU has given the ACP countries a January 1 2014 deadline by which they should have signed and ratified the EPAs - or it would withdraw the Preferential Market Access Regulation 1528/2007.

The ACP countries have said they would not compromise their position by succumbing to the pressure.

"This is an unfair position - that of a giant and a dwarf. We implore the EU to exercise patience. As ACP we have agreed that we will not be intimidated into signing," he said.

The ACP is contending the 80 percent threshold to open up its market saying this will expose its local industries to unfair competition.

There is need to grow local capacity first. The 15 years by which the threshold should have been reached has also been dismissed as too short given the fragile state of most of the economies in relation to the impending competition from the EU exports.

Furthermore, the proposed removal of export taxes that most ACP countries charge will compromise revenue generation for the respective economies.

The export taxes are also essential for enhancing value addition and industrialisation in the respective countries.

Mr Baptiste said the EU also needed to facilitate the establishment of trade infrastructure to place the ACP countries in a better position to trade with it.

Over the last few days the ACP countries have been unanimous in their quest to postpone the signing of the EPAs, which have remained contentious since the 2007 expiry of market access as stated by the Cotonou Agreements signed between the two parties in 2 000.

ACP secretariat senior expert in multilateral trade Mr Morgan Githinji said most of the EPA conditions were unfair to the region.

"The 80 percent threshold is a very high degree of liberalisation. It means we will be allowing exports from Europe to compete with our locals . . . we need to put in place agreements that benefit us as well not just the EU.

"We should continue relations with Europe but let us diversify with other partners," he said.

Position papers submitted by regional groups within the ACP this week showed that the group was increasingly becoming uncomfortable with the EPAs in their current state with many describing the 2014 deadline as unrealistic.

"We are calling upon our partners to appreciate that the delay in the finalisation of the agreement cannot be attributed to any one party as both sides have had a role to play and, therefore, it may not be useful to unilaterally fix rigid deadlines.

"What in our view should be set are benchmarks and checklists towards which both parties must work to achieve a naturally acceptable agreement," said a submission by the East African Community states.

The East and Southern African States (ESA) in which Zimbabwe is negotiating under said the EU’s position on EPAs was untenable.

"Development and strengthening of regional integration should remain the core objective of the negotiations towards a full and inclusive EPA taking into account both the concerns and interest on non LCDs (Least Developing Countries) and LDCs.

"Accordingly there is need for variable geometry that take into account specific interest of LCDs while ensuring achievement of the same end goal, namely

promoting growth and development of ESA countries and building South-South trade while ensuring that what has been achieved is preserved," implored the group.

"The PACP region strongly believes that it is possible to build on the interim EPA and conclude a development-friendly and comprehensive agreement that can deliver long term development, economic growth and assist in poverty reduction in the Pacific ACP region," noted the region.

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  • ’ACP countries won’t bow to EU pressure’18-June-2012 | Azwimpheleli Langalanga

    Sanity has indeed finally prevailed.The whole idea that the EU could put a deadline on the negotiations reflects a high level of patronage.I however,hope that the same attitude shall be adopted when negotiating with the so called South partners,notably China.This is indeed time for Africa as the US was saying the other day.If we do not realise that we have a lot of bargaining power now than ever before then we shall be doomed.This is commendable.The EU needs the ACP more than the ACP needs the EU.Opening up of 80% of markets is a lot.You are right Djeneba,the movement should be towards harnessing regional goods in ECOWAS,COMESA,the SADC etc.Then when we finally have the capacity to trade we can open up.That capacity will not have been achieved by 1 January 2014.The EU must realise that you can fool many people many times.But you cannot fool everyone every time.

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  • ’ACP countries won’t bow to EU pressure’18-June-2012 | Djeneba

    It was about time Africans realized that A New Day came about in the last six years. Developing or Least Developing countries are trading partners with competitive goods and services that other countries need and want. Its about time Africans stop seeeing themselves as beggars in Business. A trade agreement is just what the name says; its about trade and a mutual agreement. Let African countries (the Carribean and Pacific countries as well) sit down, count their strengths and needs and Negotiate with European and other trading partners alike (more of the latter than the former, lets face it, the EU has lost its shine and its strength). African Leaders need to Negotiate trade deals that can be useful to a common African Agenda, Negotiate amongst African Regional Communities partnerships that will give Africa a greater bargaining power and most of all help Africa achieve its (what seems like an eternal goal of) sustainable development.
    Africa needs to enable itself to stop asking for help and to start giving itself the tools it needs to help itself. African leaders must work for Africans, African leaders must know what Africans need and they must negotiate a fair deal rather than give Africa away for free to its former owners. Its a New Day, Africa has a competitive advantage in this new day of poor developed countries and struggliing developing ones.
    Lets sit on the same table, negotiate and come out with a win-win situation for all. If anything, Africa has racked up enough of the loosing end of this game to know exactly what not to do anymore if it wants to stop being taken for the free ride that it has been for the last 50 years.

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