Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)
Brussels, April 16th 2013

On the eve of a decisive vote on Market Access Regulation 1528/2007 regarding the proposal by the European Union to exclude certain ACP States from European Union trade preferences, the Secretary General of the ACP, H. E. Alhaji Muhammad MUMUNI calls on all the Members of the European Parliament to refrain from taking an action that would be to the detriment of the ACP States concerned, and that could be considered as a pressure against ACP countries.

The ACP Secretary-General believes that it is critically important for the MEPs to be cognizant of and sensitive to the effects and impact of their vote. The Secretary-General strongly appeals to the MEPs at their plenary sitting in Strasbourg on 16 April 2013 to take fully into account the interest of the ACP-EU partnership by voting to retain the implementation date of 1 January 2016.

The proposal to amend MAR 1528/2007 to exclude certain ACP States from benefitting from duty free and quota free market access has exerted severe pressure on ACP States to accept EPAs, not on their development merits, but to avoid the interruption of their exports to the EU. Such pressure goes against the principles and spirit of the ACP-EU partnership as enshrined in the Cotonou Agreement. Furthermore, the proposal tilts in EU’s favour the balance of power, weighing it heavily against the ACP in an already asymmetrical process of negotiations.

The Economic Partnership EPA is a joint ACP-EU project which was conceived to, inter alia, align the ACP-EU trade regime with WTO rules. The Doha Round would be completed to give greater flexibility to developing countries on using trade for national development. Since Doha Round negotiations have effectively collapsed, there is no consensus as to how compliance with WTO should be interpreted.

Regulation (MAR 1528/2007) was therefore adopted to provide a legal basis in the EU for continuing to offer almost identical market access as under the Cotonou Agreement to the ACP States that had initialled full or interim EPAs, pending the conclusion and ratification of comprehensive EPAs. The expectation by the ACP States was that divisions created would be healed through the conclusion of inclusive agreements involving all regional members and that the European Union would make every effort including exercising maximum flexibility to enable negotiations to be finalised. Unfortunately, adequate flexibility has not been evident.

EPAs were also to be designed to contribute to deepening the regional integration process as well as foster economic growth and development for all the countries and regions. However, seven different EPA’s were initialled in 2007 with CARIFORUM being the only region that concluded a comprehensive EPA. The other regions concluded interim EPAs, which were not subscribed to by all members, thus creating divisions in some regions, but which also only dealt with trade in goods and related issues, leaving for later discussions on other important development support issues of greater interest to the ACP States.

A decision to implement the amendment by October 2014 would not allow the conclusion of comprehensive and inclusive regional agreements. As MEPs agreed in their report on 13 September 2012 imposing such a short unilateral deadline is not the best approach to achieve the desired results. In fact, there are well founded reasons why the agreements reached in 2007 have not been implemented, as well as why the comprehensive regional agreements have not been concluded. Several of the agreements concluded in 2007, were reached with individual countries, and not with the whole regions which have continued the negotiations. However, a decision to implement the EPAs by these individual countries within a region could have a serious negative impact on the regional integration process. The objectives behind the EPAs, which the European Parliament supports, are that the agreements should contribute to deepening the regional integration process as well as foster economic growth and development for all the countries and regions concerned. Partial agreements could have the opposite effect”. This clearly shows that MEPs fully appreciate the difficulty of ratifying agreements that are of an interim nature.

Therefore, while the ACP Group has been opposed to any action having the effect of denying market access to any of its Member States for whatever reason, in the current circumstances, the Group is of the view that postponing the deadline for implementing the amendment as of 1 January 2016, as previously voted by MEPs during the first reading, would provide the requisite time space for the conclusion of agreements that would be inclusive of all members in a given region.

Press officer a.i.
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