EPA Update, GREAT insights, Volume 2, Issue 1 (January 2013)


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    ACP Heads of State Summit in Equatorial Guinea, Mohamed Ibn Chambas resigns from ACP Secretary General to take on UN Special Representative position

    ACP Heads of State and Government met in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea from December 13th to 14th for a high-level Summit on the theme “The future of the ACP in a changing world: challenges and opportunities”. 

    On trade issues specifically, the Sipopo Declaration, issued at the end of the Summit, takes stock of ACP Trade and Development efforts before going into specific policy issues in the Group’s commercial ties with the EU. Observing that the Group’s integration in the world trading system is weak, and that past efforts to diversify the economic and export base of ACP economies “have achieved limited progress”, the Group reaffirms its determination to take specific policy reforms and measures to develop key sectors, such as tourism or niche products. Additionally, the Declaration underlines the importance of Infrastructure and Trade Facilitation measures.

    In this light, the ACP calls for “additional resources” to be made available as part of an EPA package, and for “binding provisions that will deliver on development”, combined with wording that would allow an EPA signatory state to monitor the development impact of an agreement on its population, with the possibility of rescheduling commitments made. On the current impasse in EPA negotiations the Group suggests dropping problematic issues “that are not germane to the WTO”. 

    Echoing a proposal issued by the African Union last year, the Declaration also calls for establishing a common and enhanced trade preference system for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Least Industrialized Countries (LICs), a proposal that would end the current split in EPA negotiating countries between those eligible for the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative and other, more developed countries that could only rely on the less generous Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) should they opt out of EPA negotiations. 

    The ACP Group also takes a strong stand against the amendment of Market Access Regulation (MAR) 1528 maintaining quasi Duty Free Quota Free preferential market access for countries negotiating EPA having signed an Interim EPAs (IEPAs). Regular readers will remember that the European Commission had proposed earlier last year to amend the regulation to provide for the removal of countries that do not show signs of commitments to the ratification and implementation of their IEPAs by 2014. 

    While the final “deadline” is still under discussion in Brussels (see previous issues), the move was widely criticized by ACP countries as an to push them into the signature of rushed EPAs, while the Commission reminds that MAR 1528 always had a temporary nature. 

    Additionally, the Group expressed concern at the EU’s new GSP, whose main new feature will be to exclude Upper-Middle Income Countries (UMICs) from its remit. Namibia, Botswana and Palau are ACP countries directly concerned by this change. 

    The Declaration also announces the creation of a “High-level panel” tasked with giving “political impetus to the negotiations, and to find solutions to the contentious issues”. The exact composition of the panel is not known as of yet, but it will comprise of six Heads of State and Government, drawn from the African Union, who will have one representative on the panel, one member from the CARIFORUM grouping, and one additional from the Pacific ACP States, as well as three Members of the Troika of the European Union. The first meeting of this panel is expected in January 2013, preceded by a preparatory joint Experts meeting with officials from the European Commission. 

    Apart from trade relations, the “Sipopo Declaration” addressed issues that have risen to the top of the ACP agenda in past months. One could cite development financing and “differentiation” between countries on the basis of needs and performance, or, as the theme of the summit suggests, the future of the ACP Group itself, whose future after the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020 has been the subject of intensive discussions in Brussels (1) . 

    In other news, the Secretary General of the ACP Group, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas has been nominated Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Head of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) by African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. According to sources, he is to resign from his post as ACP Secretary General in February.

    EAC and EU technical officials meet in Kampala 

    The least EAC-EU negotiating session took place from 6th to 9th November last year in Kampala, Uganda. A somewhat quiet round according to sources, Technical Officials were able to reach a common understanding on several issues relating to Rules of Origin (RoOs), Institutional Arrangements and Dispute Settlement provisions. Thornier issues have been delegated to Senior Officials level, who should meet at some point in February.

    On RoOs, it seems that the definition of “ACP states”, fishery and fish products related matters and cumulation with South Africa stand out as particularly divisive. They will require further work by Senior Officials, as will several chapter and heading-specific issues. The timeframe of the asymmetry granted to RoOs is also a point of contention.

    The Dispute Settlement (DS) chapter also came closer towards finalisation, with the provisions related to the review of compliance measures with panel rulings and the amendments clause nearly agreed upon. Nevertheless, DS scope, timelines and Interim measures, amongst others, have been deferred to the February meeting. Procedural matters relating to Arbitration are also still under discussion.

    >Quentin de Roquefeuil is Policy Officer in the Economic Governance and Trade and Regional Integration Programmes at ECDPM

    1. For the full text of the declaration, see http://www.acp.int/sites/acpsec.waw.be/files/Final%20ACP2806512%20Rev%208%20Draft_Sipopo_Declaration.pdf 

    This article was published in Great Insights Volume 2, Issue 1 (January 2013)


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