Third World Trade Bloc Reviews Economic Partnerships With EU

Third World and developing countries met last week to plan their existing and future business deals with the European Union (EU) and explore other possibilities to export their products to.

The countries belonging to the African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) trade bloc will engage member states of the EU in high-level talks about the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) due to be signed at the end of this year.

It is widely believed that these EPAs will force these countries into commitments that will affect their economies negatively.

Prime Minister Nahas Angula, who attended an ACP summit for government leaders in Accra last Friday, told reporters that the new ACP president, John Kufuor, who is also president of Ghana and the secretary-general of the ACP secretariat, was tasked to conduct the talks at the end of this month with “key EU stakeholders”.

“This is to have more time available for negotiations about the EPAs,” Angula told reporters late on Monday.

“This is an option Namibia favours as we don’t want to rush into this whole matter.

We will also look into exploring additional markets for our export beef, table grapes, fish and dates,” Angula added.

Namibia reluctantly signed an interim EPA just before Christmas 2007, allowing duty-free and quota-free exports to the EU until the permanent EPA is agreed on, after an existing trade agreement between the EU and ACP states expired at the end of last year.

Namibia exports beef, fish and table grapes – jointly worth N$3 billion a year – to Europe.

The Namibian government has expressed concern that EU countries demand “most favoured nation” status in the services industry, allowing EU companies to take part in local tenders in the 77 ACP countries.

“If this happens, then we cannot have favourable trade agreements with South America, like with Brazil any more,” according to Angula.

Another problem is that the EPAs stipulate the removal of Namibia’s infant industry protection 12 years after a final EPA is signed.

This would be detrimental to Namibia’s fledgling pasta and beer production.

Ghana’s Kufuor acknowledged that the EPAs have divided ACP countries.

“They tend to undermine our regional integration efforts,” Kufuor said at the Accra ACP summit.

“The EPAs divide the solidarity that used to bind the ACP countries together under the pretext of giving regional emphasis to the relationship between the EU and the six ACP regions,” Kufuor stated.

“They threaten to deprive members that do not sign, by giving deadlines which could prove catastrophic to our fragile economies.”

The summit further instructed the ACP Council of Ministers to consider the creation of an ACP free trade area. –

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