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ACP group wins major trade battle with EU

BuaNews (Tshwane) | 16 November 2007

ACP Group Wins Major Trade Battle with EU

Judith Akolo

The Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have won a major trade battle against the European Union with a deal that was brokered to push the stalled negotiations on the renewal of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to December 2008.

The EU has agreed to establish a framework that will ensure trade is not interrupted between January and December next year, thus giving a one-year extension before a new pact has to be reached.

There had been growing tension between the EU and the ACP countries over the trade arrangement.

Last week Kenyan civil society organisations claimed that 65 percent of the country’s locally manufactured products would be adversely affected by the reciprocal free trade agreement between ACP countries and the EU.

The civil societies said Kenya already belonged to the Common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC), two trade blocks with separate Customs Unions.

However, Kenyan Trade and Industry Minister Dr Mukhisa Kituyi was quick to reassure local traders that the government would ensure that the main pillars of the EPA are respected.

Trade ministers and negotiators from the African region met their counterparts from the European Commission on Monday in Brussels where they agreed to push the deadline from the expected 31 December 2007-2008.

Local exporters, mainly horticultural producers, had expressed fears that they would lose their market access should the two parties fail to sign a deal by next month.

Zambian Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry Felix Mutati led the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) delegation to the talks while EU Commissioner for Trade Peter Mandelson and his Commission for Development Louis Michel represented the EU. - BuaNews-NNN