O'DONNELL WELCOMES NEW EU TRADE AND AID AGREEMENT WITH ACP STATES
Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the agreement reached between the EU and seventy one African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) on a new trade and aid agreement. The EU also agreed to allocate 13.8 billion euros to the European Development Fund in the five years to 2005. The Fund is the main source of development funding from the EU to the ACP States.
Ms. O'Donnell said that after the failure to launch a new trade round at Seattle, the agreement was a big step forward both for development and for international trade. Under the agreement the EU is committed by 2008 to conclude new trade agreements with regional trade blocs in the ACP States. These new trade agreements should, over time, result in free trade between the EU and a large number of developing countries.
At the same time the EU is also committed to permitting duty free access to the EU market for essentially all products from Least Developed Countries, the poorest countries in the world.
Speaking after the conclusion of the negotiations Ms. O'Donnell said "As our own national experience has shown, exports and the ability to trade are a key component of development. The EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States are now committed to concluding new trade arrangements which will revolutionise trade between them. The ACP States will be helped to integrate into the global economy and to increase their trade with the EU. This will bring major benefits for their peoples and their economies."
Recognising that a move to free trade between the EU and developing countries would be a complex and difficult process, Ms. O'Donnell said " The new agreement opens up the perspective of free trade. This does not mean that the markets of some of the poorest countries in the world will overnight be exposed to full competition from EU products. The negotiations leading to free trade arrangements will take into account the differences in economic development. There will be transition periods and assistance to developing countries to enable them to export to the EU. Agreements leading to free trade will only be concluded by 2008 and only with countries who wish to enter such arrangements."
While welcoming the decision to replenish the Fund with 13.8 billion euros, Ms. O'Donnell said that Ireland would have preferred to have an even higher allocation. "In the discussions on the allocations to the Fund, Ireland argued for an allocation of over 14 billion euros. We believed the higher total was necessary to maintain the value of the fund in real terms and to make a strong gesture of solidarity with the ACP States".
Ireland's contribution to the Fund, will be around 86 million euros over five to seven years.
Note for Editors
Negotiations on a successor to the Lome Convention, the agreement governing trade and development relations between the EU and seventy one African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States concluded successfully at 6.00am yesterday morning in Brussels after two days of negotiations. The agreement will be formally signed early in 2000.
The new EU-ACP Agreement provides that in 2002 the EU and regional trade blocs in the ACP states (e.g. Caricom in the Caribbean, SADC in Southern Africa, SOPAC in the Pacific) will enter into negotiations on Regional Economic Partnership Agreements. The new Agreements should be concluded by 2008 and will provide for free trade between the EU and the ACP regional trade blocs. The moves towards free trade would begin in 2008 and could take as long as a further 12 years.
ACP countries not wishing to enter such free trade arrangements would continue to enjoy special trade preferences for their exports to the EU. The EU has given a commitment that Least Developed Countries should be able to export essentially all products duty free to the EU by 2005.
The EU also agreed to replenish the European Development Fund with 13.8 billion euros. The Fund will provide development assistance from the EU to the ACP States between 2000 and 2005. Ireland's share of the Fund is 0.62% or 86 million euros.