Brussels, 20 November 2007 - "The negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Countries (ACP countries) have now entered their final stage. The preferential trade treatment of these states according to the Cotonou Agreement will expire at the end of this year. We must make intensive use of these last weeks to achieve satisfactory results", said State Secretary Hans Winkler at the meeting of the development ministers, also making clear that many of these developing countries would otherwise have to expect declining exports in the future.
"An extension of the preferential system is not an option, since it is not compatible with the WTO rules and would be met with massive resistance from other states. Even the conclusion of partial agreements on the movement of goods would be a success for both sides. In order for the EPAs to live up to their claim of being also, and above all, a development instrument, it will be necessary to accelerate negotiations on the remaining issues like services and investments in the next year and bring these to a conclusion as quickly as possible", stressed Winkler.
In these negotiations, Austria advocates - always in compliance with the WTO rules - the asymmetrical opening of the markets, long transitional periods, generous safeguard clauses, compensation funds, and the promotion of regional, independent trade areas. "The end of a preferential treatment always comes hand in hand with far-reaching and often hard reforms. Yet changes always entail opportunities. Austria and the EU have a particular interest in keeping any short-term economic disadvantages for our partner countries as limited as possible and to absorb these with suitable measures", said the State Secretary, who also pointed out to the EU grants in connection with the Aid for Trade Initiative (2 billion Euros each year until 2010).
Winkler also mentioned that Austria will place a stronger focus on the trade-related needs of the priority regions as part of the Austrian Development Cooperation (OEZA). "Together with other partners, the OEZA will support measures to improve public financial management and customs, and to strengthen the civil society. Moreover, it will promote local certification procedures to better respond to the increasing demand for organic products and will provide support in developing the capacities of food agencies", said Winkler.
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