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Procedure : 2009/2537(RSP)
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Document selected : B6-0148/2009

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PV 23/03/2009 - 14
CRE 23/03/2009 - 14

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PV 25/03/2009 - 3.10
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Wednesday, 25 March 2009 - Strasbourg
EC-Côte d'Ivoire stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreement

European Parliament resolution of 25 March 2009 on the stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreement between Côte d'Ivoire, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), in particular Article XXIV thereof,

–   having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000 (the Cotonou Agreement),

–   having regard to the United Nations Millennium declaration of 8 September 2000, which sets out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as criteria collectively established by the international community for the elimination of poverty,

–   having regard to the Ministerial Declaration of the Fourth Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference, adopted on 14 November 2001 in Doha,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 September 2003 on the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Cancún(1),

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 May 2005 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO General Council Decision of 1 August 2004(2),

–   having regard to the Gleneagles Communiqué, adopted by the G8 on 8 July 2005,

–   having regard to its resolution of 1 December 2005 on the preparations for the sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong(3),

–   having regard to the Ministerial Declaration of the Sixth Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference, adopted on 18 December 2005 in Hong Kong,

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 March 2006 on the development impact of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)(4),

–   having regard to its resolution of 4 April 2006 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong(5),

–   having regard to its resolution of 1 June 2006 on trade and poverty: designing trade policies to maximise trade's contribution to poverty relief(6),

–   having regard to its resolution of 7 September 2006 on the suspension of negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda(7) (DDA),

–   having regard to the report and recommendations of the Task Force on Aid for Trade, adopted by the WTO General Council on 10 October 2006,

–   having regard to its resolutions of 23 May 2007(8) and of 12 December 2007(9) on Economic Partnership Agreements,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 23 October 2007 on Economic Partnership Agreements (COM(2007)0635),

–   having regard to the Conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) of April 2006, October 2006, May 2007, October 2007, November 2007 and May and June 2008,

–   having regard to its position of 5 June 2008 on the proposal for a Council regulation applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences for the period from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2011 and amending Regulations (EC) No 552/97, (EC) No 1933/2006 and Commission Regulations (EC) No 964/2007 and (EC) No 1100/2006(10),

–   having regard to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement between Côte d'Ivoire, on the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, on the other part,

–   having regard to Rule 108(5) in conjunction with Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the European Union's previous trade relationship with the ACP countries until 31 December 2007 – which gave the latter preferential access to EU markets on a non-reciprocal basis – was the subject of a derogation from the general rules of the WTO,

B.   whereas EPAs are WTO-compatible agreements aimed at supporting regional integration and promoting the gradual integration of the ACP economies into the world economy, thereby fostering their sustainable social and economic development and contributing to the overall effort to eradicate poverty and create wealth in the ACP countries,

C.   whereas Interim Economic Partnership Agreements (IEPAs) are by nature WTO-compatible agreements involving substantial commitments on trade in goods aimed at preventing a disruption of ACP trade with the European Union, and should be considered as a temporary solution while negotiations to conclude a comprehensive EPA with the West African region are ongoing,

D.   whereas the trade rules embodied in the IEPA should be accompanied by an increase in support for trade-related assistance such as administrative capacity building and measures to promote good governance,

E.   whereas Côte d'Ivoire ranks 151st out of 163 in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2008,

F.   whereas the aim of the EU Strategy on Aid for Trade is to support developing countries' capacity to take advantage of new trade opportunities,

G.   whereas within the EPA negotiations some ACP countries, with the aim of ensuring that all exporters are treated in the same way as the most favoured trading exporter, have sought the inclusion of a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Clause, which sets a normal, non-discriminatory tariff on imports of goods,

H.   whereas there is limited competition between EU and ACP economies since the vast majority of EU exports mainly consist of goods ACP countries do not produce but need either for direct consumption or as inputs for domestic industry; whereas this is not the case with regard to trade in agricultural goods, where EU export subsidies represent a serious obstacle for ACP producers in the agricultural, livestock and dairy sectors, disrupting and often destroying both local and regional markets, and the EU should therefore phase out all kinds of export subsidies without delay,

I.   whereas new, improved, and more flexible rules of origin have been negotiated between the European Community and the ACP countries, and will potentially provide the ACP countries with considerable benefits if implemented appropriately and with due consideration for their reduced capacity levels,

1.  Stresses that EPAs cannot be regarded as satisfactory unless they achieve three objectives: offering the ACP countries support for sustainable development, promoting their participation in world trade and strengthening the regionalisation process;

2.  Stresses that the principal aim of this agreement is to contribute, through trade and development, poverty reduction and respect for fundamental human rights, to the achievement of the MDGs;

3.  Recalls that, whilst the interim agreement is WTO-compatible and can be considered a first step in the process, it may not automatically lead to a 'full' EPA;

4.  Recommends a flexible and pragmatic approach in the ongoing negotiations for a full EPA; calls on the Commission, in this context, to take into account, in particular, Côte d'Ivoire's request concerning the development aspects of the agreement; welcomes in this regard the Conclusions of the GAERC of May 2008;

5.  Calls on the Commission to consider any request by Côte d'Ivoire to renegotiate any provisions on the contentious issues that it wishes to amend or withdraw;

6.  Calls on the Commission to monitor closely economic developments related to the agreement; supports, therefore, the Commission's intention to review all aspects of the agreement during the negotiations for a full EPA; stresses that the full EPA should include a revision clause and an impact assessment, which should be carried out within three to five years after the signature of the agreement in order to determine its socio-economic impact, including the costs and consequences of implementation; calls for Parliament to be involved in any revision of the agreement;

7.  Recalls that EPAs must be compatible with WTO rules, which do not require or forbid liberalisation commitments or regulatory obligations regarding services, intellectual property rights protection and the so-called 'Singapore issues';

8.  Calls for a regulatory framework to be established during the transition from interim to full EPA with regard to services; calls for steps to be taken to ensure, where possible, that universal service provisions are in place, including for essential public services; reaffirms in this context the views set out in its resolution of 4 September 2008 on trade in services(11);

9.  Considers that a full EPA should include a section on political dialogue and the defence of human rights;

10.  Expresses the hope that an accountable and democratically elected government will be in place as soon as possible in Côte d'Ivoire; welcomes, therefore, all preparations completed by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), but urges the CEI to make a new and realistic electoral timeline public as soon as possible; believes that Parliament's support for a full EU-Côte d'Ivoire EPA should take account of whether elections have taken place and whether a democratically elected government is in power; requests to be consulted as early as possible;

11.  Commends the signatories to the agreement for facilitating progress in customs reforms within the West African region, especially considering the position held by Côte d'Ivoire in the West African region as one of its most advanced and prosperous economies, and also the leader on trade and economic development;

12.  Welcomes the development of a customs union in the West African regional grouping and, in particular, the benefits to Côte d'Ivoire that would be available through the synchronisation of the West African region, leading to a wider market, increased trade and increased opportunities for the creation of economies of scale;

13.  Recalls that intra-regional trade accounts for a small proportion of Côte d'Ivoire 's trade and highlights the need for increased regional trade links in order for sustainable growth to be ensured in the region; calls, therefore, on the Commission duly to take into account the policies of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional grouping;

14.  Stresses that the potential future regional EPA with West Africa must under no circumstances endanger the cohesion or weaken the regional integration of those countries;

15.  Considers that the full EPA should encourage processed exports with simpler and improved rules of origin, particularly in key sectors such as textiles, fisheries and agriculture;

16.  Calls on the European Union to provide increased and adequate technical and administrative assistance to Côte d'Ivoire, including its private sector and civil society, in order to facilitate the adaptation of the country's economy following the signing of the IEPA;

17.  Recalls the adoption, in October 2007, of the EU Strategy on Aid for Trade, with the commitment to increase the collective EU trade-related assistance to EUR 2 billion (2 000 000 000) annually by 2010 (EUR 1 billion from the Community, EUR 1 billion from the Member States); insists that Côte d'Ivoire receive an appropriate and equitable share; calls for an early determination and provision of the share of the Aid for Trade resources; stresses that these funds should be additional resources and not merely a repackaging of the European Development Fund (EDF) funding, that they should conform to the priorities of Côte d'Ivoire and that their disbursement should be timely, predictable and in line with the execution schedules of national and regional strategic development plans; opposes any kind of conditionality linked to the ratification of this EPA in the matter of granting European aid, and calls on the Commission to guarantee that access to the funds of the 10th EDF is kept separate from the results and pace of the negotiations;

18.  Underlines the importance of a transparent management of natural resources as they are key to development; urges the negotiators of the final EPA to account fully for such a mechanism and to suggest best practices in order that Côte d'Ivoire may make the maximum gains from such resources; reaffirms in this context the views set out in its resolution of 13 March 2007 on corporate social responsibility(12) and asks the Commission to ensure that EU-based transnational companies with production facilities in ACP countries abide by core ILO standards, social and environmental covenants and international agreements to achieve a worldwide balance between economic growth and higher social and environmental standards;

19.  Calls on the Côte d'Ivoire authorities to encourage and protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in light of the signing of the IEPA; commends the IEPA for giving SMEs 15 years to adapt to the changes;

20.  Believes that the development of the region's human resources is paramount for securing the gains from a revised trading system, and encourages the development of incentives to maintain and procure skilled and educated workers for the Côte d'Ivoire workforce;

21.  Expresses its continued support for a full EPA between the European Community and Côte d'Ivoire; considers that the key issues that must be negotiated include:

   (i) rules for the protection of significant local "infant industries'for development purposes;
   (ii) the key area of intellectual property right negotiations that cover not only Western technological artefacts, but also biodiversity and traditional knowledge; furthermore, intellectual property right negotiations must not go beyond WTO rules and not demand TRIPS+ obligations from West African WTO or non-WTO members;
   (iii) a human rights clause;
   (iv) a chapter on the protection of biodiversity and the Gulf of Guinea forest, which would thus reinforce the FLEGT mechanism;
   (v) allowing taxes in justifiable cases for development purposes;
   (vi) the transparency of government procurement, with openness to EU contractors triggered at a point suitable for the needs of Côte d'Ivoire;
   (vii) working visas, which must be made available to Côte d'Ivoire nationals for periods of at least 24 months to enable them to work as 'carers' and in similar professions;

22.  Regrets that many products, including cement, gasoline and cars, whose lower-cost import may be essential for local entrepreneurs and infant industries further up the value chain, have been excluded from liberalisation;

23.  Insists that any full EPA should include provisions on basic standards relating to good governance, transparency and respect for human rights;

24.  Believes that a full EPA will completely extend its benefits to the citizens of Côte d'Ivoire if an accountable and democratically elected government is in place in this country; expresses hope, that in time, such a government will be in place in Côte d'Ivoire;

25.  Considers it important that, in the implementation of EPAs, an appropriate monitoring system should be established, coordinated by the relevant parliamentary committee and involving members of the Committee on International Trade and of the Committee on Development, ensuring an adequate balance between the maintenance of the leading role of the Committee on International Trade and overall consistency on trade and development policies; considers that this parliamentary committee should operate in a flexible manner and actively coordinate its work with the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA);

26.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to inform Parliament in good time during the transitional negotiating process;

27.  Calls on the Commission to provide viable alternatives that guarantee market access for those countries not wishing to commit to the full EPA;

28.  Stresses, in particular, the crucial role of ACP parliaments and non-state actors in the monitoring and management of EPAs, and asks the Commission to promote their involvement in the ongoing negotiation procedures; points out that this requires a clear agenda between the EU and ACP countries, based on a participatory approach;

29.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the ACP countries, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

(1) OJ C 77 E, 26.3.2004, p. 393.
(2) OJ C 92 E, 20.4.2006, p. 397.
(3) OJ C 285 E, 22.11.2006, p. 126.
(4) OJ C 292 E, 1.12.2006, p. 121.
(5) OJ C 293 E, 2.12.2006, p. 155.
(6) OJ C 298 E, 8.12.2006, p. 261.
(7) OJ C 305 E, 14.12.2006, p. 244.
(8) OJ C 102 E, 24.4.2008, p. 301.
(9) OJ C 323 E, 18.12.2008, p. 361.
(10) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0252.
(11) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0407.
(12) OJ C 301 E, 13.12.2007, p. 45.

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