Trade News - June/July 2012

European Parliament votes for postponement of EPA deadline


The trade committee of the European Parliament voted to recommend to the EP Plenary Session the postponement of the EPA deadline to January 2016, not January 2014 as proposed by the European Commission. Civil society organisations had asked the Parliament to reject the deadline altogether. The recommendation will now be on the agenda of the Plenary in September, after the summer break. It is still possible that the deadline will be moved back to 2014 there, so nothing has been won yet and it is important to maintain the pressure. Moreover, if the Plenary also approves the new 2016 deadline, this would not be the end of the matter as the Council where the governments of the EU Member States are represented has to approve it as well.

All in all, while the vote of the trade committee was an important step in the right direction, a long and slippery road still lies ahead for the postponement of the EPA deadline.


EPA Negotiations


The negotiations between the EU and West Africa (ECOWAS) continue to progress slowly, which is why Ghana continues to signal that it may have no choice but to sign its interim EPA if no regional agreement is found.

The meeting between government officials of the EU and the East African Community (EAC) originally planned for May has been pushed back to July. Despite efforts to move towards the finalisation of the agreement, the two sides remain divided on key issues.

The negotiations between Southern Africa (SADC) and the EU are also facing difficulties. Little progress has been made in recent months and some negotiation rounds were cancelled altogether.


European Parliament vote to reject ACTA


The trade committee of the European Parliament also voted to recommend to the EP Plenary Session to reject the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA, if approved, would among other things put at risk the access to generic medicines in Africa[1]. Given the clear majority by which the committee recommended the rejection, it is very likely that the Plenary will follow suit when it votes on ACTA in September.


GSP Reform approved


The European Parliament and the Council approved the final version of the reform of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) which will come into force in January 2014. GSP is a trade arrangement through which the EU provides developing countries with preferential access to the EU market. This takes the form of reduced tariffs for their goods coming into the EU market. There is no expectation or requirement that this be reciprocated. Unfortunately, the reform now expresses the criteria for accessing GSP in such a way that Namibia, Botswana and Gabon can no longer make use of it. These countries now face the hard choice of either signing an EPA or facing considerably increased tariffs on their exports to the EU.


Thomas Lazzeri


[1] For more information on ACTA and the debate surrounding it, please refer to Trade News - April 2012 at


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