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ACP states seek better trade relations with EU

18 June 2014, 08:37

Nairobi - The African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states are seeking better trade relations with the European Union (EU), a senior Kenyan government official said on Tuesday.

Deputy President William Ruto told the opening session of the 99th ACP Council of ministers meeting in Nairobi that over 60 percent of ACP exports are absorbed by the EU markets.

"But the contradiction of these figures is that this constitutes only less than five percent of the total EU's imports," Ruto said. ACP consists of 79 members states drawn from the Sub Saharan Africa, Caribbean and Pacific region.

"Therefore the EU imports 95 percent of all its external needs from outside the ACP region. This calls for a strategic review of the current trade arrangement that will inform the on-going Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU," Ruto said in a speech read on his behalf by Kenya's Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed.

Ruto said that EPAs should aim to expand the overall export basket by value and volume of the ACP states. "The main reason why the ACP's share of global trade is minimal is due to its heavy reliance on primary commodities," he said.

"So Africa should embrace value addition of goods so that it increases its exports," he said. The non-reciprocal trade arrangement provided to the ACP countries by the EU has been one of the main pillars of the ACP-EU partnership.

"In this regard, EPAs presents the ACP with an opportunity to negotiate for a new regime that will emphasize on value addition to our exports," Ruto said.

He noted that the central focus of EPAs should be poverty eradication through creation of employment and generation of sustained incomes for our citizens.

Kenya, like most ACP countries, has enjoyed long-standing relations with the European Union, under successive Lome Conventions and now the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.

The President of the ACP Council of Ministers Dr. Abdallah Kigoda said the East African Community is close to concluding its EPA with the EU.

There are currently three outstanding issues that need to be resolved before the October deadline.

"However, if we agreed to all EU proposals, we would have been disadvantaged," he said.

Kenya's Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the EPAs should complement the on- going regional, intra-regional and continental integration initiatives that all countries are committed to.

"EPAs should ultimately help integrate the ACP Group into the World Economy by addressing existing constraints as well as enhancing the Group's global competitiveness," she said.

Mohamed added that Kenya attaches great importance to ACP cooperation. "We are committed to ensuring that the level of our partnership grows to greater heights," Mohammed said.

ACP Secretary-General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni said one of the emerging structural problems occasioned by the EPAs negotiations is the reconfiguration of ACP countries into negotiating entities.

"This poses a serious threat to the solidarity, cohesion and partnerships that were foreseen in the original ACP-EU agreement," he said.

Mumuni said that the current definition of the ACP Group gives it strength and sense of unity and any attempts to redefine the Group should be avoided.

"This is underlined by the premise that EPA should be seen as a tool for development and should strive to integrate ACP countries into the global economy," he said.

The secretary general said that the ACP Group should continue to solidify its participation in the Multilateral Trading System, especially in the ongoing Doha Development Round of negotiations.

- Xinhua


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