European Parliament | 24-02-2009
EU partnership accord with the Caribbean: green light from MEPs, with conditions
The European Parliament should gives its assent to the economic partnership agreement between the Cariforum states and the EU, provided that undertakings are given by the Commission and Council for a review clause and that extra aid for trade is included, says the EP International Trade Committee.
The draft resolution to be tabled to Parliament’s plenary, which was drafted by David Martin (PES, UK) and adopted on Tuesday by the committee, states that the economic partnership agreement (EPA) can only be described as "satisfactory" if it offers the Cariforum countries support for their economic development, promotes their participation in world trade and strengthens the regionalisation process.
Of the six groups of ACP countries taking part in such negotiations with the EU, the Caribbean region was the only one to sign, in December 2007, a full EPA covering areas such as investment, competition policy, public procurement, current account balances, the environment, social issues, cultural cooperation and greater protection for intellectual property. Thirteen Cariforum member states signed the agreement on 15 October 2008 and Guyana signed up on 20 October. Haiti has until 2010 to sign.
Aid for trade
Regarding measures to accompany the EPA, which will include compensation for the net loss in customs revenue, MEPs ask the Commission to clarify the distribution of funds in the region within the "aid for trade" budget. They also call on EU Member States to outline additional funding beyond 2008-2013 budget commitments.
The ACP states are asked to describe what additional EPA-related funds are needed, particularly with regard to regulatory frameworks, safeguard measures, trade facilitation and support in meeting international sanitary and phytosanitary and intellectual property standards. The EU is committed to increasing its trade-related assistance to €2 billion annually by 2010 (€1 billion from the Community, €1 billion from the Member States).
MEPs support the agreed tariff line exclusions focused on agricultural goods and some processed agricultural goods, given that they are based chiefly on the need to protect infant industries or sensitive products in these countries.
The committee also points out that the duty-free, quota-free market access agreed between the parties will produce a significant increase in trade and is supported by more flexible and improved rules of origin, as well as a comprehensive review clause.
Review clause and regional integration
The committee welcomes the fact that a review of the Agreement will be undertaken no later than five years after the date of signature and at subsequent five-yearly intervals, in order to determine the costs and consequences of implementing the Agreement. It requests that the European Parliament and the Cariforum parliaments be involved in any revision of the EPA. An "independent monitoring mechanism within the Cariforum states endowed with the necessary resources" should also be set up to determine the extent to which the EPA is achieving its objectives.
To stimulate intra-regional trade, MEPs call for the selective application of most-favoured nation treatment to the European Union by Cariforum and other sub-regional groups.
They also call for further lowering of tariffs between developing countries and regional groups, which today account for 15 to 25 percent of the trade value.
Parliament oversight of implementation of the EPAs
Lastly, implementation of the EPAs should be scrutinised by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, working together with representatives from the ACP states to ensure overall consistency in trade and development policies, say MEPs.