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1. Aim of the meeting
The objective of the meeting was to promote closer scrutiny of how the European Union's market access action for Least Developed Countries known as the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative, is to be implemented, in order to ensure that Least Developed Countries benefit from the initiative at minimal cost to other developing country exporters.
2. General Responses to the EBA A common observation made by all participants was on the limitations of the EBA, (on its own), as it stands, to actually address the problems that Least Developed Countries have in exporting their products to the EU. Nevertheless, almost all participants welcomed the EBA initiative as an important first step. But, it was criticised for "mystifying" the real issues at stake, by placing excessive emphasis on simple tariff elimination.
3. The Importance of Implementation Issues It was recognised that on the basis of the data presented in the Oxfam study that the immediate benefits derived by LDCs from the EBA would be limited and that future benefits would be dependent on investment in the development of new production to exploit the market access established under the EBA. However, it was recognised that future investment flows will depend on the benefits seen to be arising from the EBA in its early years of implementation. On this point, it was argued that the EBA, with its complex transition periods for certain products and the lack of clarity on the prices at which these products would be sold, did not present itself as a clear incentive for investment in LDCs 4. The Question of Duty Free Access for LDC Sugar
5. LDC Market Access and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards A considerable discussion took place on the impact of EU sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) on the prospects of LDCs exploiting the duty free access granted under the EBA. It was argued by some that high EU SPS standards were not always based on scientific evidence. It was also pointed out that in the beef sector, for example, stricter SPS standards are likely to constitute a major barrier to entry into the EU market for new LDC suppliers.
6. Addressing Investment and Supply Side Constraints As previously indicated, it was recognised that future benefits would be dependent on investment in the development of new production to exploit the market access established under the EBA. However, it was pointed out that it could not be assumed that the establishment of the EBA would in and of itself be sufficient to attract new investment to LDCs. It was felt that a multiplicity of supply side constraints would need to be addressed before many LDCs could hope to attract new investment on the basis of the market access granted by the EU under the EBA.
7. Moving Beyond a Simple LDC/NON-LDC Dichotomy The view was expressed and implicitly endorsed that there is a need to move beyond the simple Least Developed Country/non-Least Developed Country dichotomy in developing the EU's trade relations with its developing country partners. This should require a new approach based on the development needs of these countries, rather than their categorisation.
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