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REGIONAL TRADE >> ACP URGED TO DEFINE REGIONAL ENTITIES WITHIN EU, WTO FRAMEWORK
By: Giviniwa Paul, TOMRIC Agency (Dar es Salaam) Journalist

"ACP states consider regional economic integration to be a step towards their integration into the global economy, and that the support provided by the EU must be coherent in terms of objectives and policies, they said. "

Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) have been urged to define their regional entities within the frameworks of the European Union (EU) and World Trade Organization (WTO) as a key step towards integrating their economy into the global market.

A statement by the ACP Secretariat also made available to this agency says that representatives of the ACP organizations holding their second meeting in Brussels have been challenged to see how best regional entities could be defined in the EU and WTO framework.

Featured in their meeting included the configuration of ACP regions which would be involved to negotiate Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU as from September 2002. They include Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).

Others are Central African Economic Community (CAEC), CARICOM, Pacific Forum and Intercontinental Authority of Development (IGAD). "The definition of these entities is of singular importance since it will significantly condition the outcome of future trade negotiations both within the EU and the WTO framework," the statement says.

The ACP states consider regional economic integration to be a step towards their integration into the global economy, and that the support provided by the EU must be coherent in terms of objectives and policies, they said. They argued stakeholders to avoid situation where countries are confronted with antagonistic obligations owing to their membership in several organizations.

The Cotonou Agreement stipulates that the definition of the regions for the purpose of negotiating EPAs should be decided by the ACP states, but does not specify the options open to countries that belong to several regional organizations. "The most obvious option for the countries concerned is to choose the organization with which they prefer to be associated," the ACP Secretariat says.

According to them, as provided for under the Cotonou Agreement, it is also possible for some countries to decide not to be members of regional groupings for economic integration. In this case, they could benefit from specific initiatives under functional regional cooperation or corporate activities in the framework of intra-ACP cooperation as well as negotiate special trade agreements with the EU similar to that signed by South Africa.

At the first meeting of the ACP regional organizations held in Brussels in December 2000, it appeared that East Africa and Southern Africa and most of the six ACP regions were determined in their relations with the EU regarding their confirmation with view to the forthcoming negotiations.

Mauritius, for instance, is a member both of SADC and COMESA whereas the organization also enfolds Egypt, a non-ACP country. Under such circumstances, the statement says, ACP does not consider it expedient to rush, but to let the regions themselves define, in the most adequate fashion, it says.

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