Trade News - February 2012

No progress at the WTO

The Ministerial Conference at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2011 ended without any significant outcome. The Conference was unable to agree on a precise agenda for the WTO over the next two years. No progress was made on the Doha Round and on what should be included in the so-called Early Harvest package[1]. No agreement was found on the issue of subsidies for the cotton sector either. African countries, particularly Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso and Chad suffer from unfair competition on the global cotton market, caused by US and EU subsidies to their cotton farmers. The African countries have tried to push the issue repeatedly over the last years, but unfortunately to no avail[2].


EPA deadline discussed at the European Parliament

On the 25th January the trade committee of the European Parliament discussed the January 2014 deadline for the EPA negotiations[3]for the first time. David Martin of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group will be the rapporteur for the European Parliament. The S&D group pointed out that the deadline is a very political and not just a technical issue and warned that the EU has to consider very carefully if it is really sensible to put an end to duty free quota free access to European markets for non-compliant countries. The S&D group also drew attention to the particularly harsh consequences for countries like Namibia, which would no longer be able to rely at least on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)[4] scheme.


Yannick Jadot from the French Greens agreed that it was indeed a very political issue and wondered if the Commission intends to sanction the ACP countries for not being compliant. He emphasised that the issue has to be dealt with case by case and insisted that the Commission presents a detailed explanation for each country to which they no longer want to grant duty free quota free access to the European market, clearly detailing the reasons for this decision.


Helmut Scholz of the German left emphasised that a solution satisfying the needs and interests of both sides in the negotiation has to be found and that the deadline is no real answer to the existing problems.

While this first round of discussion at the European Parliament was positive it has to be noted that the conservative majority of the European Parliament did not even participate in the discussion, thereby showing clearly how low EPAs rank in their list of priorities. In the later stage of the debate they are likely to side with the European Commission and support their proposal of a January 2014 deadline.


Thomas Lazzeri

[1] For more information on the Early Harvest package please also see Trade News - September 2011 at

[2] For more information on the issue, please also read Western Cotton subsidies endanger African Farmers at

[3] See also EU wants to force ACP countries to sign EPAs at

[4] For more information on the GSP also see EU wants to force ACP countries to sign EPAs

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