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ACP negotiators meet in London

The Jamaica Observer

ACP negotiators meet in London

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Chief Negotiators from the six Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions that are fashioning the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union met in London last week to compare notes and review strategies, and emerged saying that they had a better understanding of the way forward.

"(It was) an important opportunity for counterpart lead negotiators to exchange experiences and information, but also to coordinate approaches to upcoming negotiations with the EC (European Commission) on a range of issues," said Dr Richard Bernal, head of the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM), the vehicle used by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) for its trade negotiations with other countries.

According to Bernal, the negotiators had an opportunity to engage "in frank and open discussions on the state of their respective region’s negotiations".

The chief negotiators agreed on the need for interchange amongst themselves on a regular basis and decided on mechanisms to strengthen the dialogue and technical specialists.

At present the EU has a single trade and economic assistance treaty with the more than 70 members of the ACP. Europe, however, decided in the 1990s that it would develop specific partnership agreements with regional groups that fall within the ACP.

ACP member states, however, said they would not dismantle their organisation.

Negotiations for EPAs with the EU involves the following regions:

- West Africa (Economic Community of West Africa ECOWAS + Mauritania);
- Central Africa (Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale or CEMAC + São Tomé and Príncipe);
- Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA members);
- the Southern African Development Community (SADC: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania + South Africa as an observer);
- Caribbean or CARIFORUM (these include the 14 ACP members of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic); and
- the Pacific.

Last week’s meeting focused on i) EPA and ACP regional integration processes ii) market access issues and iii) the development dimension of an EPA. On regional integration, the negotiators compared progress made in their respective regions in strengthening these processes.

In this context, the meeting discussed the content, structure, scope and strategy of an EPA for each region. On market access issues, the meeting reaffirmed that EPAs should increase market access for current and potential exports of ACP countries. There was a call for tariff liberalisation to focus on phasing periods, and for allowance to be made for sensitive products.

The chief negotiators also agreed that rules of origin must be development oriented and stressed that neither trade nor market access by themselves are sufficient to promote development.

While in London, the chief negotiators met with Britain’s Hilary Benn, the Secretary for International Development, to discuss problems experienced in synchronising aid flows with the negotiating process.

 source: Jamaica Observer