ACP Group Risks Disintegration Over EPAs

Public Agenda, Accra

ACP Group Risks Disintegration Over EPAs

6 October 2008

By Wisdom Dzidedi Donkor, Accra

The Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mizengo Peter Pinda, has said that the formation and negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are a clear indication that the cohesiveness of the African, Carribean and Pacific Group is being threatened to the "forces of disintegration".

"It is regrettable and disturbing that while the European Union comprising the big economies continue to expand its membership, the negotiations under EPAs are deliberately forcing the ACP Group and Regional Economic Communities to disintegrate," he lamented.

Mr. Mizengo said this at the 6th Summit of ACP Heads of States and Governments in Accra which ended last Friday.

According to him, the threat of disintegration is contrary to the spirit of the Georgetown Agreement, the founding Treaty of the ACP Group.

He said the EPAs could meet the aspirations of the ACP if they will support regional integration initiatives, bring about sustainable development, and facilitate smooth and gradual integration of ACP economies into the global economy.

He said the EPAs would also have to contribute to eradication of poverty in order to help ACP countries to attain internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Mr. Mizengo said the EPA negotiations which were supposed to be completed by December 31, 2007 were impeded by, among other things, the inflexibility of the European Commission in resolving contentious issues which are fundamental to the development aspirations of the ACP.

He said the EC’s tactics of exerting pressure on individual ACP States to initial Interim Agreements outside both the configuration and their respective Regional Economic Communities (RECs) militate against efforts and threaten progress towards the deepening Regional Integration.

He called for a High Level ACP-EU Meeting to be convened at the earliest possible time to forestall the threat of disintegration and resolve other contentious key issues.

He underscored the need for ACP States that have not initialed Interim EPAs to be accorded temporary framework for trade which is equivalent to their positions in the previous arrangements until such a time the EPA negotiations are completed.

While acknowledging the efforts by ACP countries to attain the MDGs by integrating them into their National Development Strategies, he also recognized that there were clear mixed achievements in targets.

Mr. Mizengo urged ACP States to remind the leaders of the G8 countries that "a promise made is a debt in itself."

"Let us therefore urge the G8 leaders to expeditiously deliver on their commitment to double aid to Africa by 2010 and other commitments to developing countries as contained in the final Communiqué of the Gleneagles Summit in 2005," he said.

On her part, Ms Glenys Kinnock, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, called on the EU to show flexibility and not insist on comprehensive EPAs when individual countries believe they would be better served by free trade area agreements.

Ms Kinnock said the ACP has in its ranks the most vulnerable Least Developed Countries, landlocked and small island countries and said the call for special and differential treatment is absolutely justified.

She said that from all indications, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa would not reach the MDG1 to halve poverty.

She said MGD5 - maternal mortality which was a major focus in New York, is well off track. "We won’t meet the targets set. Not in 2015, not 2020, not 2030, not until 2050," she said.

According to her, the G8 promises to donate more than 25 billion dollars to Africa by the year 2010 but said figures released last week show that only four billion dollars has actually been delivered and wondered if the 21 billion-dollar gap is going to be filled in less than two years.

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