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 Full text 
Thursday, 13 June 2013 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Stepping-stone Economic Partnership Agreement between the EC and Central Africa (debate)

  David Martin, rapporteur. − Madam President, firstly, let me say to the colleagues who have expressed reservations about this EPA that, if it were not a stepping-stone EPA, I would share their reservations. The aim is to move from the stepping-stone to a full EPA, so I do not believe it breaks regional integration at the moment.

We had the Cameroon Ambassador in the Trade Committee, who emphasised the importance of this EPA for his country, and I have had contact with the Cameroon Trade Minister, who has also emphasised the importance of this EPA for his country. You cannot, in my opinion, punish Cameroon for being the only non-LDC in a regional grouping where every other country is an LDC. That is, of course, what has pushed them to sign up now and the others to hold out for more.

There are problems with regional integration. I was pleased to hear the Commissioner say that in the eleventh EDF we are putting more money into encouraging regional integration. We do have some responsibility for that, because the reason the African countries prefer to trade with Europe rather than with each other is because of historical colonial ties. It is a system that we put in place 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago and that we are now reaping the damage from. So we have a responsibility to try to encourage inter-regional trade within the African countries.

What I would say to the Commission, though, is that while I am very strongly supporting this, and while I hope we can move forward in terms of regional EPAs, I still believe that the way we are presenting EPAs, and some of the offers on the table we make in terms of EPAs, are not sufficient.

We still have this holy grail of 80% liberalisation. Nowhere does the WTO say that we have to liberalise 80% of our trade. It has to be a substantial amount under the WTO and I know of countries which, if they could only get an agreement on 75%, which is not that much different, would sign up for an EPA. But we seem to be stuck on this idea that it has to be a fixed 80%, so we need to show a bit more flexibility in our negotiations and we must, as I said at the beginning, also emphasise more the accompanying measures. So it is not just about liberalisation, but it is a new development package.

I recommend to the House that we support this interim EPA today.

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