EU/ACP: ACP EXPORTERS DENOUNCE SCRAPPING OF SUGAR PROTOCOL
2 October 2007
Sugar exporting countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group will no longer have privileged access to the EU market as of 1 October 2009. On 28 September in Brussels, during the Competitiveness Council, the 27 ministers put an end to the Sugar Protocol which, since 1975, guaranteed prices and preferential access to the EU to the 18 exporting countries from the ACP Group.
This decision was immediately denounced by the countries concerned. "Terminating the Sugar Protocol is a political decision on the part of the EU which sends an extremely worrying message in the overall context of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations. Despite what the European Commission has argued, there are no legal obligations under the WTO to scrap the protocol", declared H. E. Patrick Gomes, ambassador of Guyana to the EU and chairman of the ACP Consultative Group on Sugar.
The EU has justified this decision by the need to place its relations with the ACP countries in line with international trade rules, but has announced the implementation of new measures to support producer countries. It underlines that the reform of its sugar regime in July 2006 offers new opportunities to "competitive" exporting countries. "Other measures have or will be put in place in 2009 which will offer more attractive and sustainable conditions," added the Council. Discussions are currently in progress in the framework of the EPA negotiations underway between the EU and six regions which must be concluded by the end of the year according to the deadlines established by the WTO. The 18 signatory countries of the Sugar Protocol were disappointed by the European market offer, which excludes sugar from the abolition of all customs rights of entry into the EU. On 14 September, they held a meeting in Brussels to increase pressure on EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
While the Commission affirms that the ACP Group will benefit from higher export quotas as of 2009, the countries from the sugar group are still not satisfied on the question of the purchase price and demand that the advantages from which they benefit in the Sugar Protocol are guaranteed in the future trade regime. "The EU is reneging on its previous commitments to the ACP countries with a pre-emptive strike at a time when we are still negotiating the EPAs in good faith. Unless the guarantees of the Sugar Protocol are transposed into the new agreements it will leave us significantly worse off than we are already. This would be a complete contradiction of the stated goals of the EPAs," said Patrick Gomes.
This decision risks further complicating the final stage of EPA negotiations, while the chances of maintaining the cut-off date set by the WTO is dwindling. H.E. Sutiawan Gunessee, ambassador of Mauritius to the European Union, commented that, "the EU's decision is unfortunate and unwarranted. It does not create the right atmosphere to conclude an ambitious EPA".