Friday, 16 November 2007

EPA negotiations: European and international trade unions appeal to Commission

On the eve of a critical decision on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) at the European Union General Affairs and External Relations Council on 19 November, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) today reiterated their call for an extension of the EPA negotiating deadline. In a common statement ETUC and ITUC called for the Cotonou Agreement trade preferences to be extended until the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are in a position to conclude EPAs - if, and only if, they choose to do so.

"The Commission needs to do the right thing, legally and morally. It should include in the Generalised System of Preferences plus (GSP+) those ACP countries that currently meet the criteria - including ratification and full implementation of the eight ILO core labour standards - or undertake to meet those criteria within six months at the most," said ETUC General Secretary John Monks. "It is clear that many countries are not in a position to sign EPAs.
It's time to offer the them some breathing space and seriously explore the alternatives, as the European Commission is obliged to do under the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement."

If necessary, development assistance and cooperation with the ILO should be offered to countries in order to facilitate the implementation of the ILO conventions. The Least Developed Countries not able to access GSP+ preferences can be offered trade preferences under the Everything But Arms scheme. "We understand that the Commission is worried about the end of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver, but in the unlikely event of a challenge the ACP countries can state convincingly that given the lack of progress on the Doha round and the fact that their group contains some of the poorest countries on earth, an extension of the Cotonou preferences would hardly be unjustified," argued ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. "For those countries that do choose to negotiate EPAs, a greater degree of non-reciprocity and a period of up to 25 years for implementation are necessary preconditions to boost sub-regional integration, which is a stated aim of these negotiations. ACP countries should not be pressured into negotiating areas such as intellectual property and investment provisions if they do not wish to do so."

No comments: