EU SCRAPS PREFERENTIAL DEAL WITH SUGAR PRODUCERS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 26) - The Commonwealth condemned the European Union (EU) on Sunday for scrapping a preferential trade deal with sugar-producing African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, reports Reuters

The EU voted in September to axe the so-called Sugar Protocol, under which 18 ACP countries receive privileged duty-free access at subsidized prices to the EU market.

"The Commonwealth... considered the EC's unilateral denunciation of the Sugar Protocol as very regrettable," the club of mostly former British colonies said in a statement at the end of a three-day summit.

Europe initially slashed its sugar subsidies by 36 percent, in response to a World Trade Organisation ruling that they were illegal, but then scrapped them completely.

Europe has pledged millions of euros to help the ACP countries adapt to the changes.

The EU was offering to continue providing duty-free, quota-free access to its markets for exports by about 80 ACP nations, but only if they scale back import tariffs against each other and Europe a condition they say will ruin local industry.

Last week Fiji and Papua New Guinea reportedly broke away from the Pacific island nations to sign an interim deal on trade-in-goods with the EU.

This followed the EU's threat that nations which do not sign risk an increase in tariffs on imports from ACP countries.

The interim deal becomes effective on January 1 next year. Details of the interim deal are yet to be publicized.

Meanwhile, the Pacific's gratitude to the work done by the outgoing Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon was conveyed to Commonwealth Leaders by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

Sir Michael, the longest serving member of the Commonwealth said the Pacific has been served well by Mr. McKinnon during his eight years in office. "I speak with a heavy heart to acknowledge his contribution. He has brought accountability and transparency to the office of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Sir Michael said McKinnon has been a fine example of what the Pacific can offer to global affairs.

"He was tireless in his efforts on international trade, global warming and sea level rise, issues affecting member countries. He was also instrumental in the engagement with Fiji and Pakistan to find solutions to their governance issues."

Sir Michael also reminisced on the peace brokered by the outgoing Secretary General in the 10-year ethnic crisis in Bougainville.

"His contribution brought peace in my troubled island and we will remember that contribution," Sir Michael said.

Mr. McKinnon has been replaced by Indian diplomat, Kamalesh Sharma, who takes up office in April next year.

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