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ACP ministers unite on EU sugar deal talks

Fiji Times, Suva

ACP ministers unite on EU sugar deal talks

5 May 2007

The African Caribbean Pacific sugar group has adopted a united negotiating position on the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement.

The resolution came at the end of the four-day ACP special ministerial conference in Nadi.

Interim Minister for Finance, National Planning and Sugar Industry, Mahendra Chaudhry said the talks with the EU would now be taken up at the political level with the next meeting scheduled in Brussels for the end of May.

He said the current round of talks was prompted by the EU’s offer to replace the Sugar Protocol with the Economic Partnership Agreement currently being negotiated.

Mr Chaudhry said under the Sugar Protocol the ACP sugar states had enjoyed a guaranteed market for their sugar, at a guaranteed price negotiated annually.

The Sugar Protocol has brought substantial benefits to ACP member states in the past 30 years.

He said to offset the negative effects of its replacement, the EU had offered additional sugar quotas as well as financial assistance through its accompanying measures program to enable reforms and restructure of sugar industries in ACP countries.

"We in the ACP now have to determine in which form and manner the provisions of the Sugar Protocol will be safeguarded under the EPA," Mr Chaudhry said.

"We have to ensure that these benefits are not compromised in any significant way,"

He said the ACP was calling for a joint review to safeguard these benefits.

Mr Chaudhry said the main issues to be negotiated were guaranteed prices for ACP sugar.

The ACP sugar supplying states consider the 36 per cent price reduction over three years announced by the EU too drastic.

Mr Chaudhry said the member states want a revision of the time frame and the quantum of reduction to be spread over a longer transitional period.

On guaranteed quota, Mr Chaudhry said members want a specific agreement on additional quotas under the EPA.

The ACP council will meet in Brussels at the end of May following which negotiations will begin with the European Commission.