AFX News Limited | 10 December 2007
EU approves free market access for products from 15 ACP countries
BRUSSELS (THomson Financial) — The EU foreign ministers today adopted a ruling which will allow virtually free access to their markets with effect from Jan 1, 2008 to products from 15 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) member countries which reached an interim trade agreement with the EU.
However, twenty-seven ACP member nations, including 14 in the Caribbean, risk having an increase imposed on their customs tariffs from Jan 1.
The ruling adopted today concerns initially seven African countries — Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Seychelles and Swaziland, and two Pacific countries — Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Their products, except for rice and sugar, will be allowed to enter the EU without paying customs duties and without quotas from Jan 1. In exchange, they will have to gradually open at least 80 pct of their own markets to EU products, with transition periods of up to 25 years.
Six other African countries are included in the ruling adopted today — Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. But as they are among the least developed countries, they do not risk losing their preferential access to the European market. They will have to open up their markets under the same conditions as the other countries.
The EU Commission has for the past five years been negotiating with the 78 ACP member countries economic partnership agreements which, from Jan 1, should replace the old preferential trade regime granted by Europe to its former colonies.
The World Trade Organisation has given the EU until the end of this year to replace this regime, which it considers incompatible with international law.
The commission reached the interim agreements with the 15 countries over the past few weeks, as it realised it would be impossible to reach complete agreements within that timeframe. The agreements only cover trade in goods, as negotiations on trade in services have been postponed until 2008