EU-Africa trade partnership negotiations halted
The European Commission's deadline to normalise trade relations with the ACP group of countries is getting closer. From October 1, 2014, ACPs will have to switch to new interim economic partnership agreements with the EU, reports EurActiv. The current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) exempts beneficiary countries from customs duties and quotas, boosting the competitiveness of their products on the EU market.
If ACP countries do not sign up to the new interim economic partnerships by the October deadline, they will fall back into a less advantageous trade regime and lose the commercial preferences foreseen by the so-called Cotonou Agreement. But as the deadline approaches, negotiators are still not close to renewing the agreement, over which they have stalled for years.
A summit dedicated to peace and security in Africa was held on December 6 and 7 in Paris, gathering around 40 African leaders. But the summit's final conclusions only dedicated a short paragraph to the issue, saying that France was "in favour of concluding the regional [Economic Partnership Agreement] negotiations process with more favourable calendar and content conditions for African countries".
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The next EU-Africa summit, scheduled for April 2014 in Brussels, looks already decisive.
"If there's no agreement by then, it will become very complicated. We need to renegotiate those economic partnership agreements quickly, otherwise custom duty will increase," admitted an advisor to the French Development Minister, Pascal Canfin.
Until now, seventeen ACP countries have failed to ratify or implement the agreements, concluded with the EU in 2007. ■