but the ACP Secretariat is cautious
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CTA. 2003. - but the ACP Secretariat is cautious. Agritrade, July 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52444
In a presentation to a meeting in May 2003 of officials and ambassadors ...
In a presentation to a meeting in May 2003 of officials and ambassadors from the Eastern and Southern African region on developing an EPA negotiating mandate for the region, the ACP Secretariat argued that the Cotonou Agreement required that negotiations on EPAs should : be undertaken with ACP countries which consider themselves in a position to do so, at the level they consider appropriate, and in accordance with the procedures agreed by the ACP Group in the light of regional-integration processes in the ACP; be aimed at promoting economic development, the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty and the smooth and gradual integration of ACP states into the world economy; build on regional integration initiatives and 'not undermine the regional integration processes and efforts'. The presentation further noted that the ACP Group had 'agreed that the first phase could extend from September 2002 through 2003 when a review could take place. The negotiations in the second phase could start in September 2003'. The uncertainties facing the ACP were highlighted in this presentation particularly with regard to: the future WTO framework for ACP-EU trade relations; the impact of CAP enlargement; the impact of CAP reform; the alternative GSP scheme which would be in place. It was felt that these uncertainties required the development of 'a concerted, coherent and a joint approach not only to the negotiations of EPAs but to regional policy formulation as well'. It also requires close co-ordination between ACP capitals, and their representations in Geneva and Brussels, in order to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. The presentation set out the reasons for the current two-phased approach to the negotiations and the progress to date, noting the areas of convergence and divergence. The greatest convergence was on general principles, namely that EPAs should take full account of local circumstances, fully support regional-integration processes and be built on the wider objectives of the Cotonou Agreement. The highlighted divergences included: disagreement on whether a reform of WTO rules was required to allow the necessary flexibility in the EPA negotiations; the nature of the first, all-ACP phase and its outcome; the need for additional resources. In contrast to the EU's upbeat reporting on the outcome of the May Joint Council of Ministers meeting the ACP Secretariat presentation noted that ACP ministers 'expressed concern over the slow progress in achieving the objectives of the phase 1 of the negotiations'. With regard to the specific regional dimension of EPA negotiations the ACP paper noted that 'the EU is still wedded to its idea of REPAs', but that on the ACP side many issues still needed to be clarified, most notably: the regional configuration for the second-phase negotiations; whether it will it be regional secretariats or member-states governments backed up by the regional secretariats who will negotiate; whether such negotiations would take place in Brussels or the headquarters of the regional secretariats; the role of the Brussels ambassadors and Brussels structures; the definition of 'sensitive products' under liberalisation processes; the extent of transitional periods before full reciprocity is introduced; the impact of reciprocity on fiscal revenues; how the problem of revenue losses can be addressed; the measures which can be adopted to protect vulnerable sectors and industries. Comment: The most striking feature of this ACP presentation was the emphasis placed on the permissive nature of the commitments that ACP governments had made under the Cotonou Agreement rather than the statutory, binding nature of these commitments. This suggests an unease within the ACP over the progress of first-phase negotiations and the possibility of deferring the commencement of second-phase negotiations until further progress has been made in addressing the issues put on the table by the ACP in the first phase of the negotiations.