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MARKET ACCESS : PARLIAMENT EXTENDS EPA DEADLINES FOR ACP COUNTRIES.

African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries should have two more years to negotiate economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the EU before the European Commission decides whether to withdraw their free access to the EU market, MEPs said in their amendments to the market access regulation, adopted on 13 September.

Under Regulation (EC) No 1528/2007, 36 ACP countries that have initialled EPAs with the EU would benefit from a preferential EU import regime before they could profit from the trade advantages stated in the agreements. In 2011, the Commission proposed that countries that had not yet signed or ratified said EPAs should be removed from the market access regulation as of 1 January 2014. The Commission argues that the current situation - which is not compatible with WTO rules - is not fair towards countries that have already fulfilled their obligations and ratified their agreements.

Under the Commission's proposal, 17 countries would be removed from the list of beneficiaries. Of the 17, nine would not be affected at all since they continue to benefit from the EU's everything but arms' (EBA) duty-free schemes (Burundi, Comoros, Haiti, Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia), but eight other countries would be switched to less advantageous preference schemes (Botswana, Cameroon, Fiji, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Namibia and Swaziland).

Parliament proposes that, in order to allow these countries a "realistic timeframe" to work towards "fair and development-focused" EPAs, they should be given two more years to prepare, extending the deadline to 2016. "No ACP country should be forced to sign an unsatisfactory EPA," said rapporteur David Martin (S&D, UK).

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Title Annotation:economic partnership agreements
Publication:European Report
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Sep 17, 2012
Words:264
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