The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: No to Undue Pressure On ACP Countries, EU Told

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea — THE Seventh Heads of State and Government Summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which ended here yesterday was a resounding success and has cemented solidarity and unity of purpose among member-states, President Mugabe has said.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said the summit discussed issues relating to trade between ACP member-states and the European Union.

"The summit was well-attended better than the Ghana one which was our last summit. Tremendous success was registered.

"The ACP side is united and we work together with the EU. That is the total forum. We work together that way," he said.

Addressing the summit, the President said the EU should not force ACP countries to ratify Economic Partnership Agreements negotiated in 2002.

In any case, President Mugabe said, the agreements undermined regional integration initiatives within the ACP arena.

He said unsettled issues over EPAS between the EU and ACP member countries should be addressed before signing and ratification.

"It is ACP's main concern that the unresolved and contentious issues be fully addressed before the signing and ratification.

"In addition to not living to expectation, the Economic Partnership Agreement of the ACP and the European Union has to a large extent undermined regional integration initiatives within the African Caribbean and Pacific arena.

"Similarly, the European Union's apparent encouragement of differentiated specific provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreement, is in fact putting the regional processes under unwarranted pressure.

"It is essential therefore, that mechanisms be introduced to limit the negative consequences of such developments."

The President said there were a number of challenges that characterised implementation of EPAS that should be taken into account at the negotiating stage such as lack of infrastructure to facilitate trade and low production capacity among others.

"A number of challenges are only realised at the implementation stage. For example in Africa, signatory states in Eastern and Southern African region, including my own country, have begun implementing the provisions of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement.

"Their experience indicates that these challenges might not be peculiar to our region alone, but are likely to affect most African, Caribbean and Pacific countries when they reach this stage," said the President.

He said for ACP countries to realise full benefits of the EPAS, there should be a flexible review mechanism of the Economic Partnership Agreement.

President Mugabe said the ACP noted that the EU was making unilateral decisions that were detrimental to trade relations with the ACP countries.

He said the EU took a unilateral decision to remove some of the ACP countries from the Generalised System of Preferences scheme.

"We feel that the timing of the review process of the Generalised System of Preferences regime, which is set to be implemented in 2014, in itself also exerts undue pressure on some countries who have to sign, ratify and implement the EPA without the Generalised System of Preferences scheme to fall back on, should the EPAs not be finalised," said President Mugabe.

In this regard, he said the African Caribbean Preferences rejected the use of Gross National Income as the only basis for classifying countries' suitability to benefit from the Generalised System of Preferences regime.

President Mugabe said the use of Gross National Income criterion disregarded the important fact that most ACP countries were grappling with internal challenges such as unequal distribution of wealth, high levels of poverty and unemployment and vulnerability due to over reliance on a small range of exports.

He said the EU Commission had also unilaterally proposed amendments to the EU market access Regulation 1528/2007 as it relates to countries that desire to continue enjoying preferential market access to the EU market.

The regulation enabled ACP States to access the EU market while negotiations on EPAS continue.

"We therefore call upon the EU to allow for the negotiation process to be completed and avoid exerting undue pressure, so that we can conclude a fair and development focused Economic Agreement.

"We agree entirely with the Member of the European Parliament Honourable David Martins when he said no country should be forced to sign unsatisfactory Economic Partnership Agreements.

"This is not the trade and development relationship that we should have," he said.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe arrived home last night and was received at the Harare International Airport by Vice President Joice Mujuru, service chiefs and other senior Government officials.

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