By International Press Syndicate
BRUSSELS (IDN) - Ministers representing African, Caribbean and Pacific countries will take key decisions when they gather in Dakar, Senegal, on April 25 to address sustainable economic development, trade and political issues in ACP countries, reports the ACP Press Office.
The Senegal Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne will open the 103rd session of the ACP Council of Ministers on April 26. The three-day programme from April 25 to 27 will include preparatory meetings of the Development Finance Committee, ministerial consultations on commodities (sugar, cotton, bananas), and the plenary session chaired by Leon Raphaël Mokoko, the Minister of Planning and Integration of the Republic of Congo.
The ACP Council of Ministers will lead into the 41st session of the ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers on April 28-29, which will be officially opened by the President Macky Sall of Senegal.
The agenda of the ACP Council of Ministers includes the following topics:
Trade & Economic Partnership Agreements
The latest information on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between ACP regions and the EU will be presented. So far, only the Caribbean region has signed and ratified a comprehensive regional EPA agreement with the EU, while a number of countries are already implementing interim EPAs individually.
Negotiations have concluded for members of the West African region, East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community-EPA Group, which are now undergoing signature processes. Meanwhile, outstanding issues remain for the Central African, Pacific and greater Eastern and Southern Africa regions.
The deadline of October 1, 2016 has been set by the European Union for the EPAs to be signed and ratified, otherwise countries will be at risk of losing their duty-free, quota-free (DFQF) access to European markets (except for Least Developed Countries, which will still have DFQF access under another scheme known as ‘Everything But Arms’).
On other trade matters, ministers will be updated on plans for ACP participation at the Fourteenth session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV) in Nairobi, Kenya from the 17th to 22nd July 2016, as well as the way forward after the 10th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2015.
Discussions will address current and forecast effects of the EU sugar regime reform and trade policies for ACP sugar suppliers to the EU market, Accompanying Measures Support for former Sugar Protocol countries, and impacts of the ACP Sugar Research Programme.
On cotton, Ministers will deliberate on the status of the cotton dossier at the WTO and outlook for the future, as well as the implementation of the Support Programme for the Consolidation of the Framework for Action for the EU-Africa Partnership on Cotton. The implementation of the Accompanying Measures for Bananas, the situation of international markets and market access for banana-producing ACP countries will also be discussed.
The Council of Ministers will also consider elements for the new ACP integrated approach to the commodities sector, in particular, Senegal’s experience of financing the support for agricultural commodities sector.
The Council of Ministers will discuss key amendments proposed for Annex II and III of the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement, leading up to joint discussions on these issues at the ACP-EU Joint Council meeting later in the week.
Annex II Chapter 3 of the Cotonou Agreement has to do with financing for short-term fluctuations in export earnings of ACP countries; Annex III pertains to support for the two joint ACP-EU technical institutions, in particular the Centre for Development Enterprise (CDE). With the closure of CDE, a new joint text on a new mechanism for private sector support is expected to be adopted by the Joint Council.
Preparations for the 8th Summit of Heads of State and Government
The Council of Ministers will be updated on the preparations for the 8th ACP Summit scheduled for the May 30 to June 1 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The ACP Summit of Heads of State of Government, which met last in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in December 2012, is the supreme governing organ of the ACP Group of States.
Under the theme ‘Repositioning the ACP Group to respond to the challenges of Sustainable Development’, leaders of ACP countries will address three key topics: Equitable and sustainable development for ACP peoples; Strengthening the role of the ACP Group in global governance for development; and Peace, security and political stability as prerequisites for development. The Summit will also consider the final report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), chaired by former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on the future orientations of the ACP Group.
Future of the ACP Group and future of ACP-EU relations
Following a presentation by one of the members of the Eminent Persons Group, Prof. Ibrahima Fall, on key elements of the EPG Final Report, Ministers will exchange views on the future position of the ACP Group as a collective and effective force. The EPG report is based on more than two years of work, including open consultations held in all six ACP regions, and various other meetings and research.
The full report will be submitted for consideration and adoption to the 8th ACP Summit with recommendations covering key areas such as organisational vision and strategic areas of action, relations with the EU, governance system, financing model, and implementation strategy.
Ministers will also discuss the outlook for ACP-EU relations. The current partnership between the ACP countries and the European Union, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, comes to an end in 2020. Formal negotiations on the follow ACP-EU Partnership framework are expected to begin in 2017/2018.
The ACP Council of Ministers is a key governing organ of the 79-member ACP Group of States. The Council convenes twice a year to take decisions that guide the work of the organisation. The 103rd session of the ACP Council of Ministers will be followed by the 41st session of the ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers on the April 28-29, 2016.
Representatives from the ACP countries and the European Union will discuss cooperation on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, follow up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), migration, trade cooperation and future ACP-EU relations, amongst other key issues. [INPS | ACP – 24 April 2016]
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