5 May 2007

ACP meeting in Fiji responds to EU's reform proposals

9:22 am on 5 May 2007

Sugar producing countries have rejected the European Union's plan to cut preferential prices for their exports to Europe.

Sugar exporting members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific or ACP countries -- mostly former colonies of EU nations -- met in Fiji this week to draw up a response to the EU's reform proposals.

To comply with World Trade Organisation rules, the EU wants to reform the sugar protocol and slash preferred prices, currently about three times world market levels, paid to ACP countries by 36 per cent over the next three years.

The chairman of the ACP meeting, the Mauritian Sugar Minister Arvin Boolell, says the group has to make sure that under no circumstances should the sanctity of the sugar protocol be put at risk.

He says the EU has legal, political and historical obligations that they have to honour and have to comply with.

The ACP countries argue their economies are too fragile to withstand a sharp fall in sugar prices offered by the EU, which has offered funds to help the affected countries' sugar industries become more competitive.