EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR TRADE LAMY TO BE AT ACP NADI SUMMIT

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Suva (PINA Nius Online, 2 July 2002) - The European Commissioner for Trade, Frenchman Pascal Lamy, will head the European Commission’s delegation for the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Summit in Nadi beginning July 16.

Mr. Lamy's attendance underscores the importance of the coming negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and ACP countries.

These negotiations are due to start in September in Brussels.

Finalizing ACP preparations for the Brussels meeting will be high on the July 16-19 Nadi summit's agenda. The ACP summit is to be held at the Sheraton Fiji Resort.

ACP ministers meeting in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, last week worked on details to go to the heads of state and government at the Nadi meeting for approval.

Mr. Lamy's Nadi attendance was confirmed by the chargé d’affaires, a.i, at the European Commission Delegation for the Pacific in Suva, Maria Ralha.

Pacific Islands countries among the 76 ACP nations eligible for Economic Partnership Agreements are: the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

The basic principles and the time frame for Economic Partnership Agreements negotiations were set out in the Cotonou Agreement. This was concluded between the EU and ACP in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin.

It governs development, political and trade aspects of EU-ACP relations.

The Cotonou Agreement states that negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements will take place between September 2002 and January 2008.

On June 17, EU foreign ministers unanimously endorsed a far-reaching mandate for the European Commission to negotiate the agreements.

Mr. Lamy said then: "Economic Partnership Agreements will mark a major shift in the Community's trade policy towards deeper economic relations with developing countries and is part of our efforts to integrate poor countries better into the global economy.

"This new strategy broadens our bilateral trade cooperation with the ACP countries by tackling non-tariff barriers to trade, strengthening regional trade integration and enhancing the competitiveness of ACPs' economies through a comprehensive package of aid and trade measures.

"With this approach, Economic Partnership Agreements will promote good policies, stimulate economic activities and contribute to poverty reduction."

The Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, added: "We have to fight against the fragmentation of the markets and economies of developing countries. The current situation discourages investment and hinders trade.

"Regional openings are necessary for the development of ACP economies. We also have to remember that trade is not an end in itself but a means to promoting social and economic development.

"The EPA approach and the Cotonou Agreement are a global response to the needs of the ACP group."

The mandate has been approved in record time, and confirms the EU's commitment to the development of ACP countries, a news release from the Commission said.

Negotiations will take place within a six-year time frame so ACP countries will have a sufficiently long transitional period to implement the results, the news release said. This will reflect the levels of development of each country or region, it said.

The news release said key elements of the European Union negotiating strategy include:

* Enhanced market access to the EU: At the moment, 93% of ACP exports to the Community already enter the EU duty and quota free. The EU will further abolish remaining tariffs, focus on cooperation with the ACP countries to remove non-tariff barriers and assess technical hurdles (such as rules of origin), with a view to facilitating market access for the ACP.

* Gradual and managed liberalization of ACP economies: Tariff reductions on the ACP side will be phased in gradually and will be accompanied by support measures according to existing economic, social and environmental constraints. This process will conform to the objectives of the Cotonou Agreement and WTO rules.

* Regional integration: EPAs will aim to deepen the existing integration process, thereby creating larger and more attractive markets for local and foreign investors. National policies will be harmonized at the regional level, helping to create a more transparent and stable economic environment.

* Encouraging more beneficial investment: The strategy foresees deeper co-operation in areas related to trade such as competition and investment, especially in the light of improved regional integration.

* Trade in services: This is a key concern for many ACP countries. The EU is flexible in terms of timing and phasing of these negotiations, in accordance with the different needs and levels of development of its ACP partners.

* A comprehensive approach: Negotiations will maintain the close link between development co-operation and trade, and will tailor agreements to specific regional needs and conditions. Negotiations will be conducted in full consultation with non-state actors such as business, social partners and NGOs.

South Africa and Cuba are the only ACP members which will not be included in the negotiations. Cuba is not signatory to the Cotonou Agreement and South Africa has already concluded a Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement with the EU.

* Other members of the European Commission team coming from Brussels for the ACP Summit include Antoine Gosset, who is a member of Mr. Lamy¹s Cabinet; the spokesperson for Mr. Lamy, Anthony Gooch, and Director of Trade Karl Falkenberg.

The head of the delegation of the European Commission for the Pacific, Frans Baan, and an official from his office, Anthony Crasner, will be joining the team arriving on Wednesday, July 17th.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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