ACP guidelines for negotiations are approved
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CTA. 2002. ACP guidelines for negotiations are approved. Agritrade, August 2002. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52704
ACP Ministers met in the Dominican Republic in mid-June and provisionally...
ACP Ministers met in the Dominican Republic in mid-June and provisionally approved guidelines for the conduct of negotiations with the EU on future trade arrangements. The ACP guidelines emphasise that the ACP-EU partnership is focused on the creation of a framework for promoting 'economic development, the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty, and the smooth and gradual integration of ACP states into the world economy'. However the guidelines also highlight the need to structurally transform ACP economies and the basis of their integration into the world economy. It is explained how Economic Partnership Agreements will be negotiated between the EU and those 'ACP countries which consider themselves in a position to do so'. On the other hand the guidelines make it clear that given the possible adverse effect of reciprocity on domestic production the ACP cannot uncritically accept reciprocity as the main objective of the forthcoming negotiations. The ACP favour a two-phased approach to the forthcoming negotiations. The first phase would be conducted at the pan-ACP-EU level and would address substantive issues of common concern of which no fewer than 24 have been identified in the ACP mandate. This would then be followed by a second phase which would deal with tariff negotiations and specific sectoral issues at national and regional level. The ACP assert that existing WTO rules are unbalanced and need to be more flexible in order to better accommodate moves towards reciprocal preferential trade arrangements between developing and developed economies. They would therefore like to see the EU and the ACP co-operate in the WTO to bring about a change in its rules on regional trade arrangements, and spell out the types of changes the ACP believe need to be made in the rules. The guidelines also call for better co-ordination in positions adopted in Brussels and Geneva in order to ensure that WTO rules are developed which more effectively address other areas of concern to the ACP (e.g. the external effects of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy). Significantly, the ACP guidelines highlight how ACP countries need to give priority to the building and consolidation of intra-ACP regional co-operation before entering into free-trade area agreements with the EU. The mandate explicitly notes how ACP countries must 'first consolidate their own regional integration processes' and how ACP countries 'do not have the capacity to liberalise in parallel and concurrently with the EU'. Under ACP regional integration initiatives 'special and differential treatment' is accorded to the less developed or more vulnerable members of a regional grouping. The ACP would like to see this principle fully applied in the negotiation of economic partnership agreements. They also urge that in establishing future trade arrangements with the EU no ACP country should be left worse off than under current arrangements. Areas relating to market access which will need to be addressed are set out in some detail. The importance of ensuring that the adjustment costs associated with EPAs are minimised whilst the benefits are maximised, is also stressed. This is seen as essential if future trade arrangements with the EU are to be sustainable at the political, economic and social levels. Issues in the spheres of trade in services and trade-related areas are also set out for attention in the forthcoming negotiations. Finally the ACP guidelines recognise the need for the forthcoming negotiations to comprehensively address: external effects of the CAP; supply-side constraints facing ACP producers: fiscal consequences of moves towards free trade with the EU. Unlike the EU mandate the ACP guidelines explicitly call for the 'involvement of all stakeholders in the negotiation process' and 'public scrutiny of the negotiations, including parliamentary follow ups'. Comment: The ACP guidelines are firmly committed to a two-phase approach to negotiations, although this position has been watered down compared to the initial draft ACP guidelines. The initial draft called for the first phase to run from September 2002 through 2004. It was felt that this would enable the ACP to have a better understanding of the wider context within which detailed EPA negotiations were to be conducted, since by 2005 a number of important outstanding issues relating to WTO rules and the EU's new GSP system should have been resolved. However, following discussion in the ACP Group, this position was modified with provision being made that 'the second phase could start in September 2003'. Implicit in the ACP negotiating guidelines is the belief that future ACP-EU trade arrangements should contribute to the structural transformation of ACP economies so that the basis for their integration into the world economy is altered. In their internal dealings the ACP apply special and differential treatment according to the vulnerabilities of particular economies within regional groupings. In the context of ACP-EU negotiations this principle would appear to be of considerable importance to mono-crop ACP economies, whose prospects can be profoundly affected by developments in individual commodity markets (e.g. bananas or sugar). The ACP's emphasis on the need to 'first consolidate their own regional integration processes', constitutes an implicit rejection of the Commission's concept of 'open regionalism' which underpins its current approach to EPA negotiations. The ACP guidelines place far greater emphasis on addressing the external effects of the CAP, supply-side constraints and fiscal adjustment issues than is the case under the EU's negotiating directives.