Sunday, 7 September 2008

Africa: ACP Countries Consolidate Stand

Africa: ACP Countries Consolidate Stand

Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

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Lukong Pius Nyuylime

Delegates of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries have declared their intension to send a hand of fellowship to their counterparts of Central and Latin America so they sit on one negotiating table in order to reach a compromise that can be endorsed by the competent authorities of the World Trade Organisation and put an end to the long drawn so called banana war.

The delegates who include Eric Delucci, president of the Guadeloupe and Martinique banana producers and Vice president of the European Banana Producer Association, Alfred Almond, Member of Parliament for Martinique and Mayor of Schoelcher, Emmanuel Jean-Michel, vice president of the Guadeloupe producer group and delegates from three African countries, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana among others, are meeting in Yaounde to rehearse their stand ahead of the next negotiation. In effect, after failing to strike a deal at the last WTO negotiations in Geneva, ACP countries want to reiterate their position on the decision of the European Union, the major consumers of Latin American banana to gradually reduce the EU's tariff of 176 Euros per tonne to 116 Euros by 2015. Cameroon's Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, who doubles as the spoke person for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries on banana issues, staged a walk out during the meeting to express the disgruntlement and disagreement of the ACP countries on the proposal.

In his speech at the opening ceremony yesterday, Mbarga Atangana wondered why ACP countries could be part of the multilateral Trade process when they cannot be able to produce and sell or to simply be buyers of what is produced by stronger countries. "This preoccupation must be integrated and understood by the WTO especially as concerns the Doha negotiation cycle reputed to be e development cycle", he said.

The banana problem, though being an economic issue, has become a political problem, he said, stating inter alia that the signing of the treaty of Rome to create the European Union was delayed because of geo-strategic considerations linked to banana. The pertinence of the banana war is such that it has held the WTO talks hostage for over a decade. "If there is no accord with banana producers on imports in Europe, then there could be no wider deal on global trade liberalisation", European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson warned. Mr Mandelson said a deal worked out by WTO head Pascal Lamy had to be accepted by both Latin American and African, Caribbean and Pacific producers. But from every indication, no such concession has been reached.

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For two days running, the delegates will have working sessions with Cameroonian officials and emerge with a Yaounde declaration on the issue.

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