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Procedure : 2009/2542(RSP)
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PV 23/03/2009 - 14
CRE 23/03/2009 - 14

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PV 25/03/2009 - 3.14
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Wednesday, 25 March 2009 - Strasbourg
EC-Eastern and Southern African States Economic Partnership Agreement

European Parliament resolution of 25 March 2009 on the Interim agreement establishing a framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement between Eastern and Southern Africa States on the one part and the European Community and its Member States on the other part

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its resolutions of 25 September 2003 on the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Cancún(1), of 12 May 2005 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO General Council Decision of 1 August 2004(2), of 1 December 2005 on preparations for the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong(3), of 23 March 2006 on the development impact of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)(4), of 4 April 2006 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong(5), of 1 June 2006 on trade and poverty: designing trade policies to maximise trade's contribution to poverty relief(6), of 7 September 2006 on the suspension of negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda(7) (DDA), of 23 May 2007 on Economic Partnership Agreements(8), of 12 December 2007 on Economic Partnership Agreements(9), and 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 the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Zambia, on the one part, and the European Community, on the other part,

–   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 Conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of April 2006, October 2006, May 2007, October 2007, November 2007 and May 2008,

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

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

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

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

–   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 – did not comply with the 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 disease in the ACP countries,

C.   whereas the current financial and economic crisis means that fair and development-friendly trade policy will be more important than ever to the developing world,

D.   whereas former trade preference systems were not able to contribute to improving significantly the economic situation in these countries,

E.   whereas Interim Economic Partnership Agreements (IEPAs) are agreements on trade in goods aimed at preventing a disruption of ACP trade with the European Union,

F.   whereas IEPAs are completely independent, WTO-compatible international agreements and can be considered a first step in the process towards full EPAs,

G.   whereas the European Union offers ACP countries 100 percent quota-free and duty-free access to EU markets from year one except for rice (2010) and sugar (2015),

H.   whereas capacity levels vary considerably between ACP countries and the European Union,

I.   whereas there is limited competition between EU and ACP countries since the vast majority of EU exports mainly consist of goods which ACP countries do not produce but need either for direct consumption or as inputs for domestic industry,

J.   whereas properly designed trade liberalisation can promote market diversity, economic growth and development,

K.   whereas the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, which sets a normal, non-discriminatory tariff on goods imports, has been sought by some ACP countries within EPA negotiations with the aim of ensuring that all exporters are treated as well as the most favoured trading exporter,

L.   whereas improved rules of origin have been negotiated with ACP countries, and can provide the ACP with considerable benefits if implemented appropriately and with due consideration for their reduced capacity levels,

M.   whereas improved trade rules must be accompanied by an increase in support for trade-related assistance,

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

O.   whereas the full EPA will inevitably condition the scope and content of future agreements concluded between the ACP countries and other trading partners, and the region's stance in the negotiations,

P.   whereas the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) group of ACP countries is made up of States which vary greatly in size and GDP across the region,

Q.   whereas the Eastern and Southern African group of ESA is made up of 5 States, with a combined population of 33.5 million, each of which varies in size and characteristics, with the largest, Madagascar, having a population 250 times that of the smallest, the Seychelles,

R.   whereas the ESA region, divided into the East African Community (EAC) group and the ESA group, can be reunited as soon as these groups are so willing,

1.  Reaffirms its view that, if appropriately designed and accompanied by effective development-oriented policies, EPAs represent an opportunity to revitalise ACP-EU trading relations, promote ACP economic development and diversification, as well as regional integration, and reduce poverty in the ACP countries;

2.  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;

3.  Stresses that one key aim of this agreement is to contribute, through development goals, poverty reduction and respect for fundamental human rights, to achieving the MDGs;

4.  Recognises the benefits that the signing of the IEPAs between the Union and the relevant countries has had for exporters by maintaining the status quo for exports to the European Union after the expiry of the preferential tariff treatment provided for under the Cotonou Agreement on 31 December 2007, and therefore preserving and substantially expanding the opportunities for the ESA countries to export to the EU, through both full market rules and improved rules of origin;

5.  Recognises the importance of reaching agreements between the Union and its ACP partners that are WTO-compliant, for without such agreements trade relations between them and the development of the ACP partners will be massively disrupted;

6.  Welcomes the fact that the European Community is offering ESA countries full duty-free and quota-free market access to the European Union for their products to support the liberalisation of trade between the ESA countries and the Union;

7.  Highlights the signing of the IEPAs as a necessary step towards sustainable growth in the regions, and in these regions as a whole, and underlines the importance of the continual negotiations with a view to a full agreement for encouraging increased trade, investment and regional integration;

8.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that, if this is the ESA region's wish, it is able to renegotiate any provisions on the contentious issues that it wishes to amend or withdraw;

9.  Welcomes the establishment of transition periods within the IEPA for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order for them to be able to adapt to the changes put in place by the agreement, and urges the authorities of the States concerned to continue to support the interests of SMEs in their negotiations on a comprehensive EPA;

10.  Points out that there is a huge imbalance between the economies of EU and ESA countries which can never be bridged, even partially, by free-trade policies alone;

11.  Urges the ACP countries to further the process of liberalisation, and encourages the extension of such reforms beyond trade in goods, to also increase the liberalisation of trade in services;

12.  Calls for the Union to provide increased and adequate assistance both to the authorities in the ACP and to the private sector in order to facilitate the transition of the economies following the signing of the IEPA and to ensure that measures are taken to protect vulnerable groups (elderly people, people with disabilities, single mothers) during the economic transition period;

13.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to clarify the actual distribution of funds throughout the ACP region stemming from the pledged priority spending within the increased Aid for Trade budget;

14.  Calls for an early determination and provision of the share of the Aid for Trade resources;

15.  Recalls the adoption, in October 2007, of the EU Strategy on Aid for Trade, with the commitment to increase the EU's collective 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 the West African Region receive an appropriate and equitable share;

16.  Urges the relevant countries to provide clear and transparent information about the economic and political situation and development in these countries in order to improve cooperation with the Union;

17.  Urges the negotiators of any full EPA to account fully for the transparent management of natural resources and to outline the best practices necessary in order that the ACP countries make the maximum gains from such resources, including combating potential money laundering;

18.  Highlights the importance of intra-regional trade and the need for increased regional trade links in order for sustainable growth to be ensured in the region; underlines the importance of cooperation and congruency between different regional entities; calls for any agreements between the Union and countries of the ESA region not to contradict each other or impede regional integration in this wider region;

19.  Calls for appropriate and transparent monitoring mechanisms - with a clear role and influence - to follow the impact of EPAs, with increased ACP ownership and broad stakeholder consultation, including consultation of civil society; stresses that a comprehensive review of the interim EPA with ESA must be undertaken not later than five years after the date of signature regarding its socioeconomic impact, including the costs and consequences of implementation, allowing for amendments to the provisions of the Agreement and adjustments to their application;

20.  Considers it important that, in the implementation of EPAs, an appropriate monitoring system should be established, coordinated by the relevant parliamentary committee 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 that of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA); considers that this monitoring should start after the adoption of each IEPA;

21.  Stresses in particular the crucial role of ACP parliaments and non-state actors in the monitoring and management of EPAs and calls on the Commission to promote their involvement in the ongoing negotiation procedures, which requires a clear agenda for the negotiations between the EU and ACP countries based on a participatory approach;

22.  Insists that, in keeping with the Paris Principles on Aid Effectiveness, aid must be, inter alia, demand-driven, and calls on the ACP, therefore, to put forward, with appropriate EU assistance where required, detailed, costed proposals of how and for what purpose additional EPA-related funds are needed, particularly with regard to regulatory frameworks, safeguard measures, trade facilitation, support in meeting international sanitary and phytosanitary and intellectual property standards and the composition of the EPA monitoring mechanism;

23.  Expresses continued support for a comprehensive EPA between the European Community and the ESA countries, including the key area of intellectual property rights negotiations, which cover not only Western technological artefacts but also biodiversity and traditional knowledge;

24.  Calls on the Commission to do its utmost to restart the negotiations on the DDA and ensure that the trade liberalisation agreements continue to promote development in poor countries;

25.  Is convinced that full EPAs should be complementary to an agreement on the DDA and not an alternative;

26.  Respects the need for, and importance of, the chapter on trade defence with bilateral safeguards; calls on both parties to avoid unnecessary abuse of these safeguards; calls on the Commission to accept, within the framework of the ongoing negotiations with a view to concluding a comprehensive EPA, a revision of the safeguards contained in the interim EPA in order to guarantee appropriate, transparent and quick utilisation provided that the criteria for their application are met;

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

28.  Supports the agreed tariff line exclusions focused on agricultural goods and some processed agricultural goods, as they are based chiefly on the need to protect infant industries or sensitive products in these countries, and recalls the EU commitment in the context of the Doha Development Round to phase out agricultural export subsidies;

29.  Notes that the calendar for the ongoing negotiations from interim to full EPA between the Union and the ESA region works on the basis that the agreement will be concluded by the end of 2009; urges the Commission not to put overambitious pressure on the ESA region to accept liberalisation and in this regard to take into consideration the ESA Parliament's views;

30.  Believes that a distinction should be made between commercial and public services; stresses the need to maintain public services which address people's basic needs or which play an important role in preserving cultural diversity and exclude them from all negotiations;

31.  Notes the inclusion of a development cooperation chapter in the full EPA covering cooperation on trade in goods, supply-side competitiveness, business exchange infrastructure, trade in services, trade-related issues, institutional capacity building and fiscal adjustments; calls on both parties to adhere to their agreed commitment to conclude negotiations on competition and government procurement, taking into account the capacity of ESA countries;

32.  Stresses that any full EPA must also include provisions regarding good governance, transparency in political offices, and human rights, in accordance with Articles 11b, 96 and 97 of the Cotonou Agreement;

33.  Encourages the Commission to address the so-called 'contentious issues', such as trade coverage of the agreement, the MFN clause, export taxes, safeguards and rules of origin, in the context of the negotiations on a full regional EPA, in a manner that will be in the interest of the EU and its citizens and will support sustainable development in the EU and the ACP countries;

34.  Underlines the importance of a full EPA to support region-to-region relations through the harmonisation of trade agreements between the ACP countries and the European Community;

35.  Expresses deep concern that the current situation in Zimbabwe with regard to human rights, democracy and the economy represents a serious threat to citizens there and a heavy burden for current and future collaboration between the Union and Zimbabwe;

36.  Welcomes the development of a customs union in the ESA group and the endeavours being made towards the creation of a monetary union, especially considering the benefits to firms that would be available through the harmonisation of rules within the ESA region, leading to a wider market, increased trade and increased opportunities for the creation of economies of scale;

37.  Calls on the negotiating parties to include binding arrangements regarding public procurement, investment and competition which could boost interest in doing business with, and investing in, the ESA countries, since these rules benefit both consumers and governments locally, given that the rules will be for all and will therefore help attract business and investment;

38.  Calls for a prompt ratification procedure in order to make the benefits of the IEPA available to the partner countries without delay;

39.  Encourages the parties to finish the negotiations on a full EPA between the ESA countries and the European Community, provided that the mutual benefits of such an agreement are clearly acknowledged by both sides;

40.  Insists that Parliament must be fully informed and involved during the transitional negotiating process; wishes that this be done through an active informal trialogue with the Council and the Commission; calls on the Council to refer the matter to Parliament as soon as possible;

41.  Recognises the plight of the people of the Chagos Archipelago, who have been forcibly removed from their islands and are currently living in a state of poverty in the islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, and considers that the Union should work towards trying to find a solution for the Chagossians to allow them to return to their rightful homeland islands;

42.  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.

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