Wednesday, April 11, 2007

EU tariffs offer for ex-colonies

The European Commission has offered to scrap most of the quotas and tariffs it still imposes on exports from many African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.

European Commission Under the plan, EU tariffs on many goods from so-called ACP nations would be lifted once a deal was signed.

The EU and ACP group, mostly former European colonies, need to reach a deal before the end of 2007, when a current preferential market access deal ends.

If agreed, rice and sugar tariffs would be lifted at a later date, the EU said.

The vast majority of exports to the EU from the 78-member ACP group are already tariff-free, or taxed at very low levels.

However, a ruling by the World Trade Organization - made following complaints from Latin American countries - required the EU to scrap its preferential treatment deals with ACP nations by the end of this year, in favour of a new trading framework.

ACP nations include Nigeria, Kenya, Cuba and East Timor.

New deal

The European Commission said the offer to scrap quotas and tariffs would be extended to products such as vegetables, cereals and beef.

Tariffs on sugar would be lifted by 2015, while those on rice would be phased out a few years later, the Commission said.

But the offer was not fully extended to ACP-member South Africa, which the Commission said produced "a number of globally competitive products".

Critics have suggested that the EU has used negotiations over a new tariff deal as a means of gaining greater access to the markets of ACP nations, many of whom are among the poorest countries in the world.

But the Commission said the new offer was not conditional on ACP countries dismantling their own tariffs and quotas.

"Trade and development for ACP countries is about much more than just access to the European market," said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

"By removing all remaining tariffs and quotas for all African, Caribbean and Pacific countries we will create the best possible opportunities for these economies."

Link to BBC NEWS | Business | EU tariffs offer for ex-colonies