Caribbean ready for ACP talks

sherieholder, sherieholder@nationnews.com

Added 13 December 2012

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MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, December 13, CMC--- Barbados’ Foreign Minister Maxine McClean says that the changing economic circumstances of some ACP member states has brought with it new challenges for which responses must be sought in the quest for an amicable ACP-EU relationship. Senator McClean told CMC at the end of Wednesday’s joint meeting of ACP Council of Ministers and ACP Ministers of Foreign Affairs that ACP states continue to be challenged by the global environment and the impact this has had on the European Union. “Four years ago we faced with a different global situation, and if you are looking for a sustainable ACP-EU relationship, we have to recognize that conditions and circumstances of member states of the EU have become very different. “For example commitments that have made are now being re-examined, so in a sense we are challenged by the very nature of the global environment and the impact that this has had on the European Union,” Mc Clean noted. “At the same time while we are focusing on similar issues we also recognize that we have a number of African States in particular who are finding themselves in a somewhat favourable position because of commodity prices,” she added.  Leaders from the Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) region meet here Thursday for their seventh summit to discuss the role of the grouping in a changing global environment. The December 13-14 summit is being preceded by ministerial meetings that began on Monday and ended on Wednesday. The summit will be held under the theme “The Future of the ACP Group in a Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities”, and the organisers said it will be a milestone for the 79-member bloc, which includes 40 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 36 Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The Minister who also has responsibility for Foreign Trade cited the Equatorial Guinea as an example of one such state that encountered a significant difference to its economy following the discovery of Oil.  “As we examine issues of development assistance, governance and so on those must be continuing issues: where we are with them and where we go with them will depend on how we see ourselves relating to one another as developing countries and how we relate to members of the European Union,” she said. The Minister said there was great recognition that because of the challenges that Europe faces that the ACP has to make something of previous discussion on south south-co-operation, noting that there is potential for that as well. She said that is the type of discussion that she expects to emerge in talks among the leaders about the future of the ACP. “Clearly we operate in a very volatile global circumstance and with that global situation we have to examine how we continue to flesh out the existing arrangement that we have put in place,” McClean said. “How we could modify those taking into account the circumstances of the EU and also the changing circumstances of the ACP countries,” she added. While the Minister refrained from commenting on the progress she anticipates the Heads would achieve at Thursday’s summit, she said that she expected that the very issues she identified are among those that would pre-occupy the attention of the leaders. She said she was convinced of commitment to work together and expected the heads to focus on the issue of greater collaboration in very critical areas, the recognition of the importance of developing alternative sources of energy, utilizing the benefits of increased commodity prices of those who produce to further develop their individual economies and collaborate on some of these issues.  The summit will also be attended by observers from key international bodies such as the European Commission, the African Union, various United Nations agencies, as well as partner governments.  Discussions on the future of the ACP group will focus on trade issues, including the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union, as well as the nature of ACP-EU relations in general.  An ACP  Secretariat statement said the summit will also “cover peace, security, and good governance in ACP states and regions; the future of development finance, including the European Development Fund; improved intra-ACP cooperation; and diversified partnerships such bodies such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries. ”Climate change and food security, along with a high level dialogue on energy and sustainable development are also on the agenda.  The ACP Group was founded as an intergovernmental organisation in 1975. All members, except Cuba, share a privileged relationship with the European Union under the Cotonou Accord. South Sudan will become the Group’s 80th member following its accession to the Cotonou Agreement.  

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