Trade News - September 2012


European Parliament votes for postponement of EPA deadline


In its September plenary, the European Parliament followed the recommendation of the trade committee and voted for the postponement of the EPA negotiations deadline from 1st January 2014 to 1st January 2016. This would give some of the most vulnerable African countries at least two more years of breathing space. This is particularly relevant for Botswana, Cameroon, Fiji, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Namibia and Swaziland which are not Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and would therefore be unable to continue to benefit from duty free/quota free access to the European market thanks to the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) program.


The Council has already informally agreed to support the Commission's proposal for a January 2014 deadline. According to the EU decision-making structure, the Council and the Parliament have to agree on the same deadline. As the Council's support for the 2014 deadline was apparently unanimous, it is unfortunately unlikely it will agree to the Parliament's proposal of a 2016 deadline. A compromise might be found half-way down the road by agreeing on January 2015.

In the meantime, the ACP Secretariat expressed its satisfaction with the Parliament's decision to extend the deadline.

There has been no noteworthy progress in the negotiations between the EU and the African countries in recent months.


Madagascar requests a 5-year EPA moratorium because of the crisis


Madagascar belongs to the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) group of countries. Together with Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe, Madagascar signed an interim EPA. The interim agreement has three components: market access, fisheries and development issues. With the ratification completed earlier this year, it became the first EPA in Africa to enter the implementation phase. Implementation of the EPA is due to begin in January 2013. However, Madagascar believes that, given the crisis, time is needed for the government and operators to prepare for this deadline with its removal of tariffs on certain products. It believes that a moratorium of five years is reasonable to allow the country to prepare for the adverse consequences of this tariff reduction. The European Commission has not officially reacted yet. Being an LDC, Madagascar would have had no real need to sign an EPA in the first place. Its reaction now that the implementation phase is approaching is a stark reminder of the negative consequences EPAs may have on the economies of all other African countries.


ACTA rejected by the European Parliament


The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was resoundingly rejected by the European Parliament in its July plenary by 478 votes to 39, with 165 abstentions. If approved, ACTA would among other things have put at risk the access to generic medicines in Africa. The rejection of ACTA by the European Parliament means that neither the European Union nor individual Member States can ratify the agreement. Without ratification the agreement is not applicable in the EU. The European Commission now has three options: a) going back to the negotiation table with the other signatories of ACTA and trying to modify the existing agreement, which then would have to be presented anew to the European Parliament; b) negotiating an entirely new agreement or c) abandoning the plans for an anti-counterfeiting agreement for the time being. It is too early to say which option the European Commission will take.


Thomas Lazzeri


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