EU Trade Conference in Brussels

Joyce van Genderen-Naar

On 16 March 2010, I attended the EU Trade Conference in Brussels, the "EU Trade Policy towards Developing Countries: Challenges and opportunities for the next years" in Brussels. There were many EU Civil Society Organizations, EU officials, Asian representatives and only a few ACP representatives.

ACP and EPA were mentioned all the time, meaning Africa, not Caribbean and Pacific. Caribbean was only mentioned when the EC spoke about the only full signed EPA, the CF-EC-EPA, and the control mechanism through the new EPA Parliamentary institution. The implementation and ratification problems of the CF-EC-EPA were not discussed and there was no presenter from the Caribbean or the Pacific. There was a presenter descending from Italy for Latin America and Caribbean, who only spoke about EU Trade with Latin America. The Asian presenter from India spoke about the EU Trade with China, India, Korea etc. Not Pacific.

Prof. Festus Fajana, African Union was one of the presenters. He said that the EPA has been forced upon the ACP. The EC said to be optimistic and will go on with the EPAs for Africa. (Note: On 29 April 2010 the Civil Society Organisaties are organizing a big International EPA Seminar in Brussels to deal with these issues).

There were also presentations about EU Trade with Asia and Latin America. We were informed that the EC has only Free Trade Arrangements with Korea, to be followed by Singapore and Japan perhaps. With regard to Latin America only with Mexico and some two other South American countries. Asian and Latin American countries are sceptic and don't want certain EU rules and standards imposed upon them by the EC.

The Trade Unions presenter asked EC not to close Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, because it is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists: over 60% of all trade unionists killed in the world are Colombian, between 2007-2009 128 Colombian Trade Unionists were assassinated. That should also be brought forward with regard to the banana agreement between the EC and Colombia.

Other most important news was that the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GPS) will end in December 2011 and will be replaced by a new system, and that their will be public consultations online in April and May 2010, for stakeholders, civil society, private sector etc. to give their views. The EC Public Consultation will be on the website in a few days. ACP stakeholders could and should participate in these Public Consultations.
The EU GPS system is the system of preferential trading arrangements through which the EU gives preferential access to its markets to developing countries, in the form of a reduction or elimination of the custom duties on goods originating from developing countries.

Many countries are depending on this GSP system, existing of- a general agreement, which provides autonomous preferences to 176 developing countries and territories;
- the Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP +), which offers additional preferences to support vulnerable developing countries in their ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions in this fields; and
- the Everything But Arms arrangement , which provides duty-free, quota-free access for all Least - Developed Countries (LDCs).

The conference programme and more information are available from the conference website:

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