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EU wants new deal with ACP partners

Jamaica Observer

EU wants new deal with ACP partners

The WTO wants the regions to come to a trade agreement by the end of 2007

16 March 2007

The European Union said it wants to complete new trade agreements with 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries by the end of the year despite opposition from developing countries.

"This means we will have to significantly increase the tempo of negotiations in some regions," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said after talks Tuesday between EU development ministers and representatives of 30 ACP states in Bonn.

The EU wants economic partnership agreements with the ACP to replace the preferential treatment it gives to ACP imports, which the World Trade Organisation says is discriminatory and has to stop by the end of 2007.

The new pacts see the creation of six regional markets, the diversification of local economies and a gradual opening up of ACP markets for EU services and exports

Fears of damage to local economies

Mandelson said the ACP nations did not need to fear for their economies.

ACP countries fear a market opening could damage existing economic structures and harm their economies, but Mandelson said this would not be the case because there would be a lengthy transition period of "years, in some cases decades".

The trade commissioner said he expected a deal to be reached with Caribbean nations in July and with the other regions before the WTO deadline expires at the end of the year.

Mandelson said the EU had a responsibility to ensure that the ACP nations are "not left in the state of underdevelopment in which they currently find themselves."

He said they needed help to realise their potential and that the ways to achieve this were to invest more, improve integration of regional markets and increase access to
EU markets.

Groups need to pay more attention to each other

In addition to fears of economic hardship, the ACP countries also want the EU to provide them with more funds to introduce the reforms needed for the new pacts to become effective.

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said all parties need to benefit from any agreement. He went on to add each side involved in the negotiations wanted to pay more attention to what the other said in order to "build confidence".

She said the envisaged partnership agreements provided an opportunity to combine trade and development in a beneficial way.

Mandelson warned the ACP nations that they risked being decoupled from the global economy and left on an island of steadily declining exports of natural resources.

Promising a completely new partnership, he said that negotiations would be difficult because of fears of change as well as misunderstandings on both sides.

EU promises help beyond investment

The EU ministers also pledged Africa help in combating natural disasters, deteriorating water supply and other problems caused by climate change.

The two sides also discussed "an energy partnership" with the goal of granting Africa greater access to the global energy market, EU officials said.

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel called for the creation of an "energy fund", which would provide assistance to developing countries wishing to set up their own energy infrastructure.