ACP/EU call to put back EPA deadline

The Nation, Barbados

ACP/EU call to put back EPA deadline

By Rickey Singh

23 November 2007

Strong support for extension of the negotiating deadline for a series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states has come from the Joint Assembly of the European Union and the ACP countries.

The specific calls and proposed actions by the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) were scheduled to be released late yesterday ahead of the closing session of the four-day event in the Rwandan capital of Kigali that started on Monday.

Armed with the text of what they have presented as the JPA Kigali Declaration - a copy of which was obtained yesterday by the WEEKEND NATION, some of the delegates plan to utilise it in lobbying efforts at the Commonwealth Summit that gets under way in Kampala, Uganda, today.

The Kigali Declaration has coincided with stirring pleas by some leading regional thinkers and representatives of business and civil society organisations, for both a postponement of the December 31, 2007 deadline to complete negotiations for six EPAs, as well as for public disclosure of the draft EPA for the Caribbean.

According to the declaration, the ACP and EU parliamentary representatives want the European Commission - executive arm of the EU - to cease pressuring the ACP bloc of states to sign on to the trade access provisions of the EPAs, as efforts continue to resolve outstanding issues on the development aspect of the partnership accords that will eventually replace the existing Cotonou Convention signed in June 2000.

The assembly of parliamentarians noted with "concern that the European Commission has stated that if agreements are not in place (by the given year end deadline), tariffs will be imposed on many exports from non-Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of the ACP states, starting January 31, 2008".

Such a development, the parliamentarians said, would "threaten the welfare and livelihoods of millions of workers in ACP states". They urged the EC to adopt a two-step approach in order to avoid trade disruption for some countries while continuing negotiations beyond this yearend for "comprehensive development-friendly EPAs".

The Kigali Declaration stressed that "all agreements reached, whether interim arrangements or full EPAs, must ensure that no country is left worse off after the expiry of the negotiated deadline".

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