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04.10.2008 Business & Finance

ACP Heads seek meeting with EU states to address concerns on EPAs

By gna
Heads of State and Governments of the African,
Carribean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) are seeking a high level
consultations on the EPAs with a number of EU Member States to address
their concerns.
In a declaration at the end of the 6th Summit in Accra, the Heads of
State have expressed concern about the undue pressure that was being put
on some ACP countries to move forward to signing and ratification of
interim or final EPAs before legitimate concerns have been addressed.
They reiterated that further progress in the EPAs be based on adequately,
addressing the legitimate concerns that would allow all ACP states to
become part of the agreement in a way that would genuinely contribute to
growth, development and the advancement of integration.
The declaration emphasised that EPAs must be instruments for sustainable
economic growth and development that should build on existing regional
integration processes and promote further the unity, cohesion and solidarity
of the ACP group.
The EPAs had been a high point of disagreement at the summit.
Mr John Kaputin, Secretary General of the ACP States, on Thursday
expressed regret about the split within the ranks of the group in the light
of the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations.
He said instead of being a unifying factor, the EPA process had led to a
split of the group into states that have embraced the full EPAs and others
which have doubts about the scope and content of these agreements.
"Addressing all contentious issues will smooth the way for the successful
conclusion of the EPA process and produce an agreement that will be embraced
by both sides," he told the opening session of the 6th Summit of the ACP
Heads of State and Government in Accra.
The EU is seeking under the EPAs, a reciprocal trade regime with the
African Caribbean and Pacific countries. This means EU exporting its goods
to the markets of ACP countries quota and duty free and in return grants ACP
countries similar access to EU market.
Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire in December last year broke ranks with their
sub-regional partners and initialled separate interim EPAs with the European
Union, pending conclusions of negotiations on the full deal.
Mr. Kaputin called on the Heads of State to provide the political guidance
and leadership in charting the best way forward taking into account the need
to retain the EU as a key development partner.
In his address, President John Agyekum Kufuor also pointed out the divisive
nature of the process.
"The EPAs divide the solidarity that used to bind the ACP countries
together under the pretext of giving regional emphasis to the relationship
between the EU and the six ACP regions," he said.
Besides the EPAs are also "threatening to deprive members that do not sign
by giving deadlines which could prove catastrophic to our fragile
economies," he emphasised.
Civil society groups have called on the leadership of the Africa Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) countries to reject outright the Economic Partnership
Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union.
They argued that the EPAs, as currently structured are set to continue and
even carried further the destabilising elements that have rendered
developing countries' economies so dependent on aid.
They asked the ACP leadership to take cognisance of the fact that the free
market principles on which the EPAs rest have for the past three decades
failed to deliver the promised prosperity.
The Civil Society groups also questioned the intended removal of customs
duties now or in the future of 15 years, saying it would severely weaken the
revenue base of government and destroy the industrial base.