The European Parliament agrees to extend the deadline for ACP countries to conclude EPAs.

The European Parliament voted on the 13 of September at 12pm against a European Commission proposal that would have seen a number of ACP countries lose their duty and quota free access to European markets. “One implicit consequence [of the vote] is that countries will have to ratify EPAs on an individual basis, which undermines their regional integration processes – a huge issue for ACP countries. If the EU wants to contribute to development it should avoid creating further divisions in ACP regions and allow enough flexibility to protect regional markets” – From CONCORD Policy Officer Julieta Gonzàlez

In an attempt to push through and conclude the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and countries of the ACP group, the European Commission sent a proposal to the European Parliament that would have resulted in all ACP countries who were not of Least Developed Countries status, pay higher tariffs on exports to Europe if they did not come to an agreement on the EPAs before 1 January 2014. The Caribbean aside, the other regional blocs of the ACP are currently reluctant to finalise the EPAs while issues such as the time-frame of market liberalisation still remain.

The ACP Secretary General Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas had previously warned against any action that wasn’t development friendly, describing their position to the European Commission’s proposal as being “completely opposed”. With the announcement of the vote’s result, which will see an extension to the deadline of two years until 1st January 2016, Ibn Chambas praised the European Parliament’s decision as “wise” and “prudent” and reiterated the Parliament’s call to the Commission to act with flexibility in the negotiation process.

The negotiations of EPAs between the EU and the ACP countries has been ongoing since 2002 and issues still remain to be resolved such as the time table for ACP countries to liberalise and open up their markets.