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ACP Informal Brainstorming Sessions

Time (GMT +00) 00:00 23:59


1. The meeting, organised and facilitated by the independent foundation ECDPM, brought together some 40 ACP experts, including members of the Advisory Group of High Level Trade Experts, ACP Ambassadors, officials from ACP regional organisations, the ACP Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and ACP representatives of the private sector and civil society. The aim of the meeting was to identify common objectives and potential areas of common interest for the ACP Group; to consider possible ACP configurations and structure for the negotiations with the EU; and to identify concrete actions in preparing the negotiating process with the EU. This was an informal brainstorming where participants were therefore invited to speak in their personal capacity.

2. There was an open and constructive exchange of views resulting in the identification of some concrete and practical recommendations to move the process forward. This report summarises the main elements of discussion during the meeting on some of which a consensus among participants emerged.

3. The participants recognised that negotiating new trading arrangements with the European Union (EU) presents a completely new challenge. The context and scope of the negotiations will be very different from previous ones under the Lomé Conventions. In addition, ACP countries are involved in parallel negotiations, at the regional levels with and without ACP partners, and/or at the WTO level with the Doha Round. It is within this unprecedented and evolving context that the forthcoming negotiations with the EU have to be approached with care and due preparations.

Ultimate objectives of the negotiations

4. Participants emphasised the importance of placing the negotiations with the EU in the context of the overall development objectives of ACP countries and the objectives as defined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. The trade negotiations with the EU should therefore be supportive of those development objectives.

5. Any agreement reached by the ACP with the EU must be: quot;economically meaningful, politically sustainable, and socially acceptable".

6. Along the lines of the overall objectives of the ACP-EU partnership as mentioned in Art 1 of the Cotonou Agreement, some consensus seemed to emerge around the following indicative list of basic objectives:

    • To negotiate development- oriented trade arrangements that ensure sustainable development and economic growth in ACP countries that contribute to poverty eradication.
    • To integrate ACP countries into the world economy in a way which enables them to expand their exports of goods and services and permits adequate time for adjustment.
    • To maintain and improve preferential treatment.
    • To foster ACP regional integration, consistent with regional integration objectives and processes in the ACP regions themselves.
    • To tackle non-tariff issues, invisible barriers to trade and trade related issues, bearing in mind the developments in the WTO and other negotiations.

List of possible common ACP Interests

7. Participants also discussed a number of issues, which could be of common interest to the ACP Group for the negotiations. An indicative list of issues, combining the views of a number of experts and ACP countries and institutions, was presented to the participants for their consideration. It includes a variety of topics that could be tackled in common by the ACP, some of which still need to be supported by study or empirical evaluation:

    • Objectives, principles, and modalities of the new trading arrangements, be they EPAs or not including the possible establishment of FTA's between the ACP and the EU at regional and sub-regional levels.
    • Overall structure and format of FTA's; establishment of a common framework, phasing of the negotiations.
    • The setting up of institutional mechanisms for the negotiations and implementation thereafter of the agreements.
    • Special and differential treatment for LDCs, landlocked countries and small island developing countries
    • Treatment of the Commodity Protocols.
    • Product coverage and transitional periods with respect to the establishment of the FTA (ensuring sufficient flexibility, transition periods and possibilities for derogation).
    • Elaboration of a framework agreement on trade in services.
    • Customs and administrative cooperation issues: rules of origin (including cumulation), quality control, mutual recognition and/or harmonisation of norms and standards, certification.
    • Dispute settlement procedures
    • Addressing the challenge of designing and implementing programmes of support to overcome supply side constraints in ACP countries, to enable them to adapt to the more competitive environment and to exploit new opportunities emerging as a result of the establishment of the FTA.
    • Ensuring effective implementation and disbursement mechanisms for financial and other types of support.
    • Assessment of financing needs of ACP states to enable them to undertake the necessary adjustment to their economies that will result from increased competition from EU enterprises.
    • Modalities for the calculation of transitional costs in terms of loss of government revenue, resulting from tariffs reductions/elimination in reciprocal trade liberalisation under EPA.
    • Capacity building in human resources and institutional development in trade and other productive sectors including development of the private sector.
    • Assistance package for the development of trade in services.
    • Support for dealing with trade related issues.
    • Cross cutting WTO plus-issues and NTBs, in particular trade related issues (competition policy, investment, environment, trade facilitation, e-commerce, intellectual property, common safeguard provisions and anti dumping provisions).
    • Evaluation of the impact of CAP reform on agricultural exports, development of the agricultural sector and value added agro-processing.
    • Investment promotion packages, including measures to promote transfer of technology, know-how and skills. Promotion of technological development in ACP states and cooperation in the field of education and health.

Sequenced Approach to the Negotiations

8. A general consensus emerged concerning the sequenced approach to take with regard to the negotiations, which would allow the ACP to better influence the negotiating process. The strategic assumptions underlying this approach are the following: (i) to keep the strength and coherence of the ACP Group, (ii) to pool the limited resources and capacities of the ACP Group as a whole (iii) to effectively address issues of interest common to all ACP countries (iv) to account for regional and multilateral negotiations and (v) to anticipate evolving changes in the EU (CAP reform, EU enlargement and the WTO negotiations).

9. It was proposed to adopt a two phase approach to the negotiations

    • 1st phase: all-ACP level negotiations with the EU

During the first phase agreement should be reached on:

    • basic principles for the negotiations,
    • the overall structure and phasing of the negotiations
    • crosscutting issues of interest common to all ACP countries and regions such as those identified above.

This first phase would start from September 2002 onwards. The ACP group will have to agree internally on what issues will be negotiated in the first phase, and then come to an agreement with the EU on this sequencing. By phasing the negotiations on some specific issues, some key elements that have considerable impact on ACP-EU trade relations may have become clearer, such as the CAP reform, the GSP review, some of the WTO negotiations (on S&D, Art XXIV, etc.), the EU enlargement, etc.

    • 2nd phase: for the (region or other) specific arrangements

The second phase of the negotiations would deal with issues of specific interest to different ACP regions and countries. Negotiations could then be organised at a disaggregated level (by region, country or group of countries with specific common interest). It will elaborate on the practical application of the commonly agreed principles and framework particularly with regard to schedules for a tariff phase-out and the extent and scope of future trade arrangements. During the second phase, a mechanism for coordination, consultation and exchange of information has to be put in place to ensure that the specific arrangements concluded with the EU are coherent and strengthen each other.

Structure of Negotiations

10. As these negotiations will be fundamentally different from any previous negotiations the ACP group has conducted, there is a need to be innovative, politicise the debate in ACP and EU countries, ensure that outside resources are mobilised, find new and appropriate structures etc. Building on negotiating experiences in some of the ACP regions and countries some key component elements to structure the negotiations were highlighted:

    • political leadership and direction among the ACP countries to drive the negotiations: this requires the involvement of the key ministers concerned in ACP countries, and the active participation of ACP Ambassadors;
    • inclusiveness of the structure for negotiations: all relevant actors must be included in the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, at an all-ACP level as well as at the regional level, and this in both phases of the negotiations; this requires effective coordination mechanisms among ACP actors, so as to ensure coherence and cohesion among ACP groupings;
    • establishment of negotiating groups composed of skilled ACP negotiators and spokespersons, selected on the basis of their qualification and supported by appropriate, subject-specific, technical expertise;
    • establishment of specialised technical support groups or committees by thematic area at the ACP level so as to provide the necessary technical support and expertise to ACP negotiating teams during the two phases of the negotiations;
    • active participation of the ACP private sectorand civil society in the elaboration of ACP positions and during the negotiations, so as to ensure the practical relevance of the ACP-EU negotiations for ACP economies; to this end, proper mechanisms to involve the ACP private sector and civil society at the appropriate levels must be put in place;
    • establishment of a multi-partite structure, regrouping international organisations (regional UN Agencies, UNCTAD, the Commonwealth Secretariat, etc) and regional development banks which could provide technical (analyses, statistics, expertise, etc.) and financial support to the ACP Group and the different regions.

Capacity building to prepare for the Negotiations

11. The following elements have been considered as essential components to develop the capacity of the ACP countries, regions and Group to negotiate with the EU:

    • Analytical capacity and research, including the establishmentof cooperation and coordination mechanisms to promote the production and distribution of relevant knowledge and expertise and to avoid duplication of efforts. Private sector organisations should also be included in this process as they are centres of expertise in their areas. The ACP actors should also link up with UN agencies and regional development banks in a structural manner to use the available resources.
    • Communication and information strategy and mechanisms, to facilitate the access to and exchange of information among ACP actors and to influence public opinion, in particular in the EU Member States.
    • Effective coordination mechanisms, to create synergies and maintain coherence in the efforts of the various ACP actors.
    • Specialised training, in technical matters and negotiation skills to adequately prepare the ACP negotiators, experts, officials and representatives to the negotiations with the EU.
    • Establish informal links of communication with the EU Member States to ensure that there is a full understanding of ACP positions.

Short and Medium-Term Programme of Activities

12. The participants agreed that for the ACP Group to effectively carry forward the preparatory process and be able to enter into the negotiations with the Commission in line with the proposed phasing, urgent actions at the level of the ACP Secretariat supported by the ACP Advisory Group of High-Level Trade Experts were needed. A list for priority actions has to be identified, with indications of the key actors involved, the determination of corresponding capacities and resources necessary and a clear timetable. The following elements were identified as key steps:

13.Procedural guidelines and common principles that will govern the negotiations and identify option for the sequencing, content and structure of the negotiations and a draft ACP Mandate for the Negotiations are being prepared by the ACP Secretariat and the ACP Advisory Group of High-Level Trade Experts.

These documents are then to be considered by

    • The Sub-Committee of ACP Ambassadors on Trade and Commodity Protocols
    • The ACP Committee of Ambassadors
    • The 5th ACP Ministerial Trade Committee meeting, Apia, Samoa, 17-18 April 2002
    • The ACP Ministers of Trade meeting, Brussels, 28-29 May 2002; and the subsequent joint session with the ACP Ministers of Finance;
    • The 75th session of the ACP Council of Ministers; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, 25-27 June 2002

14. Political communication strategy and activities to influence the EU Member States and institutions. In addition to the actions that would deliver the above policy packages, the meeting agreed that it will be necessary for the ACP Group to seek to influence the views and positions of the key actors including the EU Member States, the wider European Commission, members of the European Parliament, tripartite institutions, and public opinion in general. It was generally agreed that such actions were very urgent at this stage before the EC takes a final decision on its Negotiating Mandate.


A session on negotiations with the EU, organised in Brussels for ACP Ambassadors, officials and experts; a meeting for ACP ambassadors/officials, EU officials (member states and commission) and independent experts.

Eurovillage, Brussels