The WTO background to EPA negotiations
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CTA. 2003. The WTO background to EPA negotiations. Agritrade, April 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52889
The February 2003 ICSTD and IISD briefing on 'Negotiations on WTO Rules'...
The February 2003 ICSTD and IISD briefing on 'Negotiations on WTO Rules' provides some background to the current discussions on WTO rules on subsidies (including fisheries subsidies) and regional trade agreements. Regarding the latter it notes that despite the vital interest African countries have in this issue given the on-going EPA negotiations, no African government has yet made a submission seeking modification of WTO rules on regional trade agreements. It also notes that the EU has called for a clarification of the flexibilities already provided for within the existing WTO framework, as well as an examination of the extent to which WTO rules already take into account discrepancies in development levels between regional trade-agreement partners. Other parties making submissions on this issue, notably Australia, have called for clear definitions of the meanings of key concepts such as 'substantially all trade' in terms of a percentage of tariff lines at the six-digit level listed in the harmonised system. The briefing anticipates an intensification of debate and controversy as EPA negotiations get to grips with the question of whether developing countries may offer less than full reciprocity in market opening to developed countries with which they form a free-trade area. This issue is at the heart of the ACP-EU EPA negotiations. Comment: This is a matter of some concern, given the ACP countries' desire to see a joint ACP-EU initiative at the WTO to allow for greater flexibility in WTO rules on regional trade agreements involving both developing and developed countries. The type of issue at stake can be illustrated by the treatment accorded least-developed countries under the SADC Trade Protocol. Here, the extent of reciprocal trade between South Africa (classified as a developed economy) and least-developed country members of the SADC free-trade area will cover only 70% of imports into the LDCs from South Africa. The question arises: do current WTO rules of regional trade agreements allow a similar (or lower) level of tariff liberalisation in free-trade area agreements between an economic giant like the EU and ACP regions composed largely of least-developed countries? If not, then a joint submission by African governments proposing modification of WTO rules on regional trade agreements would appear to be essential. For its part after the Doha meeting the EU made it clear that it was seeking to tighten WTO rules on regional trade agreements.