ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas with President of the Belgian Senate Mme Bethune Brussels, 5 April 2012/ ACP: The Belgian Senate has adopted a resolution urging more flexibility in free trade dealings with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group), while also endorsing the negotiation of new trade relationswith the European Union which take stronger consideration of the development needs of ACP countries.

(Read the full legislative text)

Tabled by Socialist Party Senators Olga Zrihen, Marie Arena and Phillipe Mahoux, the text makes a further appeal to the Commission not to submit its proposal to Parliament to amend Market Access Regulation 1528/2007, which would ultimately bar ACP countries from having duty-free and quota-free access to European markets except under specific conditions. The Commission had announced its intentions last September, with the proposal expected to be submitted for a parliamentary decision within the coming months.

According to the Socialist Party’s website, Senator Zrihen PS said the resolution is needed to counter the current “ultraliberal drift” of the European Union’s development cooperation policies.

“It is inconceivable to deconstruct the very economies of the countries that [the EU] supports,” said a statement from the Party. “We must safeguard the right to development of the ACP countries and support their regional integration.”

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were first negotiated after the signing of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, as a way to ultimately facilitate free trade between Europe and the ACP regions. The aim of EPAs is to open up ACP markets to European goods and liberalise at least 80% of trade in ACP countries over a 15 year period, including sectors related to intellectual property, technology and procurement. The deal has been labeled as “unacceptable” by the Socialist Party, who claim that the further removal tariffs in these countries will result in the loss of 40% of their income.

The resolution supported the arrangement of a high level forum to discuss EPA issues with both ACP and EU partners, as well as the search for alternatives for contentious issues that have stalled negotiations.

The resolution was tabled after an invitation from the Belgian Senate to ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas to speak to the Committeefor Foreign Relations and Defence on the issue of Economic Partnership Agreements in February.

(Pictured: President of the Belgian Senate Mme Sabine de Bethune greets ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas on 7 February 2012. Dr Chambas made a presentation to the Senate's Committee for Foreign Relations and Defence on thestatus and implications of the negotiations on theACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements/ Photo by Guy Goossens – Sénat de Belgique)

See more photos from Secretary General’s visit to the Belgian Senate

– ACP Press