Mandelson pushes ACP states to sign onto EPA or .
Accra, Sept. 19, GNA - Mr. Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner, has warned that there would be no legal basis for the extension of existing preferential trade terms between the EU and the 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries if the two sides do not initial new Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) before the end of 2007. According to the EU Trade News, it was Mr. Mandelson position that ACP governments should quickly join the final burst of negotiations to successfully complete EPA negotiations by the end of the year. He argued that in the absence of such agreements, the EU and the ACP would have no legal alternative but to switch to the EU Generalised System of Preferences. This would mean less-generous tariff preferences for ACP countries.
"I have no hat and no rabbit to pull out of it. If we have no new trade regime in place by the end of this year the Commission has no legal option but to offer the region concerned less generous, GSP preferences.
"This deadline is not a bluff or some negotiating tactic invented in Brussels. It is an external reality created in the WTO in Geneva. We are committed to replace Cotonou Trade Preferences with a new trade regime that does not discriminate against non-ACP developing countries. We have to do this by 1 January 2008."
The EU office in Accra has said the EU was neither pushing nor forcing ACP countries to sign onto the EPA.
Mr. Mandelson said the European Commission was committed to a successful negotiation, noting that the EU had offered to eliminate all tariffs and quotas on all exports from ACP countries as part of an agreement. "In the time we have available, we will do everything we can to ensure the ACP regions get the best legally secure EU market access available. I believe that EPAs remain attainable for every region, and we will continue to work for success," he said.