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Economic Agreements

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 6 December 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect on regional integration of a country signing an economic partnership agreement outside their regional grouping either individually or as a small grouping. (170633)

In regions where all countries are not able to sign an economic partnership agreement (EPA), the European Commission will consider agreeing a sub-regional EPA with the countries that are ready and would like to sign. With the deadline only a few weeks away and with some countries wanting to sign an EPA even though the full region is not ready, this is a pragmatic way forward to ensure as many countries as possible can benefit from duty free quota free access into the European Union markets from 1 January 2008. If a sub-regional EPA is signed, other countries in the region should be able to join the EPA as soon as they are ready. The effect on regional integration will vary depending on the extent of existing regional integration in the area and the scope of neighbouring agreements. The UK is considering the impact of these on a case by case basis.