EU move to provide market access to Third World exports

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Wed Jan 31 07:13:58 MST 2001

Business Line
Financial Daily
from THE HINDU group of publications on
Friday, January 19, 2001

EU move to provide market access to Third World exports
Our Bureau
NEW DELHI, Jan. 18
THE European Commission today adopted ``a groundbreaking plan'' to provide
full access for the world's 48 poorest countries into the unified European
Union (EU) markets comprising 15 major industrial countries, with a few more
waiting in the queue to join the EU league.
The Commission's proposal to the European Council would grant duty-free
access to the world's poorest countries and would cover all goods except the
arms trade: ``everything but arms'', the EU said.
The European Trade Commissioner, Mr Pascal Lamy, welcomed the Commission's
adoption of the proposal saying thus: ``There has been plenty of talk about
how market access for poor countries is critical if we are to tackle their
growing marginalisation in the globalising is time to put
access to our markets where our mouth is. That means opening up across the
board, and for all the poorest countries. So we want to move to liberalise
everything but the arms trade. I hope the Council and Parliament can adopt
this proposal swiftly and that other developed countries quickly follow
This initiative, pioneered by the EU in the run-up to the WTO ministerial
meeting in Seattle in 1999, would go beyond all previous Community
commitments. The proposal reflects the Commission's belief that all WTO
members can and should benefit from trade liberalisation.
In 1998, the EU was already the major destination for LDC exports (56 per
cent of the total, to a value of 8,714 million euros). However, the current
regime still excludes about 10 per cent of the 10,500 tariff lines in the
Community's tariff schedule and one per cent of total trade flows.
The EU signed a pact in June 2000 in Cotonou with African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) countries, triggering a process that would ensure free access
for ``essentially all'' products from all less developed countries (LDCs) by
2005 at the latest. But the Commission now proposes to go beyond all
previous Community commitments by opting to grant unrestricted duty-free
access to all products (except arms) from all LDCs.
The proposal which would extend duty and quota free access for a further 919
lines would come into effect as soon as it is agreed by the Council, the EU
said in a statement in Brussels today.
For three products (bananas, sugar and rice) implementation would take
effect in three progressive stages to be completed within three years. This
obviously covers many products which are not currently imported into the EU
at present because of the high level of protection. The proposed new list
leaves out just 25 tariff lines and they relate to the arms trade.
The Commission is optimistic that the proposal would strengthen the will of
LDCs to adopt policies across the board that would put their countries on
the road to recovery and development. ``That means not just economic policy,
but conflict prevention and resolution too,'' Mr Lamy said.

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