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"The statement said the definition of these regional institutions was crucial "since it will significantly condition the outcome of future trade negotiations both with the European Union and within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)."
Representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group Regional Integration Organisations, hold their second meeting in Brussels from Thursday.
The ACP said in a statement Wednesday that the two-day meeting is to determine the "configuration of ACP regions which will have to negotiate Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union as from September 2002."
Organisations taking part in the Brussels meeting include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), Southern African development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).
Others are the Economic and Monetary Community of West Africa (CEMAC), Central African Economic Community (CAEC), CARICOM, the Pacific Forum, and the Inter-governmental Authority of Development (IGAD).
The statement said the definition of these regional institutions was crucial "since it will significantly condition the outcome of future trade negotiations both with the European Union and within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)."
ACP States consider regional economic integration to be a step towards their integration into the global economy, and support provided by the European Union "must be coherent in terms of objectives and policies. It is therefore necessary to avoid situations where countries are confronted with antagonistic obligations owing to their membership in several organisations," the statement added.
The EU-ACP Cotonou new Agreement stipulates that the definition of the regions for the purpose of negotiating EPAs should be decided by the ACP States, but does not specify the options open to countries that belong to several regional organisations.
According to the ACP statement, "the most obvious option for the countries concerned is to choose the organisation with which they prefer to be associated."
It noted that under the Cotonou Agreement, it is also possible for some countries to decide not to be members of regional groupings for economic integration.
"In this case, they could benefit from specific initiatives under functional regional co-operation or corporate activities in the framework of intra-ACP co-operation, as well as negotiate special trade agreements with the European Union similar to that signed by South Africa," the statement explained.
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