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EC External Trade: Africa

Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to ensure that bilateral trade negotiations between the EU and countries in Africa prioritise the development needs of the latter. (107506)

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are currently being negotiated between the European Union and African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. These agreements will replace the trading arrangements established through the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP, which will lapse at the end of 2007.

The UK recognises that trade can be an important driver of development and we are acting to ensurethat EPAs promote long-term development. The Government published a position paper on EPAs in March 2005. This states that, among other things, we will push for duty-free quota-free access for all ACP countries to the EU, simple and liberal Rules of Origin and that ACP should have maximum flexibility over their own market opening.

The UK has expended considerable effort over the last year to ensure that the review of EPAs negotiations currently taking place provides a significant opportunity for the ACP to raise any concerns. Ministers take every opportunity to meet with ACP Ministers, negotiators and representatives in order to listen to any concerns they may have. We continue to work with our EU partners and other member states to ensure that the ACP should be in the driving seat of their own reform.