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BOTSWANA: EU promises better access to markets

Photo: IRIN
EU has promised African, Caribbean Pacific exports better access to its markets
Gaborone, 7 May 2004 (IRIN) - The European Union (EU) has indicated a willingness to help members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc with better access to the markets of developed countries. This emerged at the 29th session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers' meeting in the Botswana capital, Gaborone this week.

"The EU is determined to help ... the developing countries, and especially cotton producing countries, to address the major challenges they face, and set up adequate measures and tools to this end," said Tom Kitt, head of the EU Council and Minister of State for Development Co-operation and Human Rights in Ireland.

"The EU encourages all developed countries and major developing countries to give duty- and quota-free access to all products from less developed countries, as it has done under the Everything But Arms (EBA)", he said. The EBA initiative, passed by the EU in 2001, granted duty-free access to imports of all products from least developed countries without any quantitative restrictions, except for arms and munitions.

The ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, signed in June 2000 in the Benin capital, Cotonou, aimed at ironing out trade inequalities between rich and developing nations.

EU ministers underlined at the Gaborone meeting that they had recently endorsed proposals designed to accommodate the concerns raised by ACP countries on agricultural commodities, dependence and poverty. Developing countries have complained bitterly that massive trade tariffs, as well as EU and US agricultural subsidies worth US $1 billion a day, were stifling the development of poor nations.

EU agricultural ministers said they had agreed on 20 April 2004 to reform the Union's internal cotton support regime.

"The reform follows in the overall direction of agricultural reform in the EU that makes the EU's farm policy less and less trade-distorting. The EU already had no export subsidies on cotton, granted complete duty- and quota-free access to the LDCs (Less Developed Countries) and imports more than 50 percent of its cotton seeds", said an EU statement.

But a delegate from the ACP countries said there was little dispute with the EU on cotton subsidies because its member states produced very little cotton.

"EU export subsidies for diary and processed agricultural products disguise the real price of EU agricultural exports, which has the effect of distorting the domestic agricultural market for our own produce", said Dr Mukhusi Kituyi, Kenyan Minister for Trade and Industry.

Kituyi said the 79-member ACP bloc would seek greater commitment from the EU.

At the official opening, host President Festus Mogae said ACP countries feared liberalisation, as prescribed by the World Trade Organisation, which could make them more vulnerable in the short term to the vagaries of globalisation, further marginalising their economies.

"This is because, as the saying goes, the lemons always ripen first, the plums only later. The pains associated with structural reforms come immediately, while the benefits come much later," he said.

Mogae also observed that numerous initiatives launched by the international community in the past few years to address these ills had not brought much relief.

"The Monterrey Conference, held in Mexico, on Financing for Development had reconfirmed the commitment of the international community to meet the agreed Official Development Assistance (ODA) levels and, in addition, promised an injection of additional resources over and above these levels. These commitments were further reaffirmed by the 2003 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development," Mogae remarked.

"These good intentions remain largely unfulfilled," he said. "Overall development assistance continues to fall in real terms and, in addition to the dwindling development assistance, a solution to the debt burden, with which many ACP countries continue to grapple, remains elusive."

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