Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to say a few words following the successful conclusion of the 93rd Session of the ACP Council of Ministers.

Before I start may I express my profound gratitude to all of you, the ACP journalists, who are here to cover the ACP Council of Ministers, I do hope that you would give the ACP Group the much needed visibility it needs.
As you are aware, the ACP Ministers have spent the past two days discussing very significant trade, political and social issues within the ACP Group and its partner, the EU, and other stakeholders.

The meeting allowed us to prepare for the Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers which takes place on Tuesday next week.
I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the meeting as the ACP Group continues to show solidarity amongst its members and showed renewed commitment to further improve the lives of ACP people.

Amongst the major issues we discussed were trade, especially the Economic Partnership Agreements, where most members have expressed concern about the lack of progress but we also understand the difficulties our countries and regions are enduring in this process.
On the future of the ACP Group, the members have expressed keen interest on the issue and we look forward to further progress on the issue from the Ambassadorial Working Group on the Future Perspective of the ACP Group.

In my humble view, the ACP Group must take the lead in the process and decide on its own future rather than to be caught by surprise in the eve of the expiry of Cotonou in 2020.
As you are aware we have also discussed a lot of issues including the eradication of poverty in our countries.

As our good Secretary-General Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas repeatedly said in the past 12 months, the current stage of poverty in the ACP countries in the 21st century is totally unacceptable.

As leaders we are committed to continue the fight and today we once again re-committed to achieving the MDGs and strongly believe that trade is important for the attainment of the MDGs.

It is on that note – that I wish to stress that on the WTO issues, the ACP Group reaffirms its commitment to a rules base global trading system and recommits to maintaining, as it always has, its constructive engagement to secure, as soon as possible, a balanced development friendly outcome to the round.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you for your time and should there be any questions, I’m willing to answer them.