15 Mar 2007

EU hopes to see ACP trade deal by year's end

10:21 am on 15 March 2007

The European Union says fresh trade deals with countries from the African Caribbean and Pacific group should be completed by the end of the year.

The EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, was speaking at a conference between EU and ACP ministers

in the German city of Bonn.

Ben Lowings reports.

"The existing preferential trade deals between the EU and ACP countries have been in the process of revision since 2000 - when they were challenged at the World Trade Organisation. This meeting in Bonn was designed to speed up the signing of replacement economic partnership agreements. Some ACP states argue that pressure to do these deals by the end of the year is unfair. The ACP spokesperson and commerce minister of Samoa, Afioga Hans Keil, was quoted as saying that tough talks still lay ahead. Campaigning charities including Oxfam say the agreements themselves will be restrictive and lock millions of people into poverty. But the EU says the ACP countries need to open up their markets in order to compete in the global economy."