ACP secretary general has dire warning for member states in 2017

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CMC) – Secretary general of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries, Dr Patrick I Gomes, is urging member states to move towards ratifying the World Trade Organization (WTO) 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The Guyanese-born diplomat said that there must be “more concerted actions by ACP member states” to ratify the accord for which the ACP Group, as a critical global force, had exerted its influence in the G90 (Group of Developing Countries) to secure a treaty that reduces cross-border customs regulations and transaction costs.

“The ACP Group will continue to play the role of champion, advocate and reliable ally of the Global South in ensuring an enduring commitment to the development dimension of the world trade system,” he said, adding that linked to strides made in trade negotiation capacity building by the ACP Secretariat “efforts in 2017 are being centred on the design of an ACP-wide Investment regime to be developed in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD).

Gomes said that at the UNCTAD XIV Summit in Kenya last July, the ACP and UNCTAD agreed on broad principles for regulatory and incentive systems to address cross-border and downstream investments on natural resource and commodity enterprises such as cocoa, cotton, kava, cashew nuts as well as minerals, oil, gas and petroleum by-products.

“Moreover, in collaboration with UNCTAD, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and FAO, the ACP has proposed a comprehensive approach to ‘harnessing the blue economy’. This will address marine resource development, research and innovation studies on fisheries, seabed mining, coastal area conservation and development, artisanal and aquaculture programmes.”

Gomes said that 2017 “will be undoubtedly marked by meagre economic recovery, growing political uncertainty, complex realignments at the international level and continuing regional conflicts [but] we will redouble efforts to strengthen our initiatives to assist our member states to implement the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the SDGs and vigorously pursue alliances of the like-minded to safeguard multilateral institutions for the good of all humanity.

“In this regard, 2017 will be a year for consolidation, standing firm on South-South solidarity and strengthening the core values and mutual interests between and among ACP societies as efforts are intensified for the structural transformation and diversification of ACP economies,” Gomes said, adding that the achievements of 2016 provide a strong platform on which to aim for reasonable success during this year and beyond.

In his New Year message to the 79-member grouping, Gomes said that sound progress had been made last year with the contentious ACP-EU economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

He said that while the accord enables implementation measures for these WTO-compatible, preferential trade and investment accords to start reaping some, if even limited, “those ACP countries with full or interim agreements, that have not been ratified should do so as soon as possible and ensure their tariff schedules are prepared to take effect in 2017”.

Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, signed the EPA with Europe in 2008.

In his statement, Gomes said that the gains made in the last year were particularly valuable in advancing commitments made by the ACP Group to the 2015 Paris Agreement and 2016 Marrakech Declaration on climate change.

“The ACP is proud of the ratification and implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement by so many ACP member states. Their submissions of nationally determined targets for adaptation and mitigation of climate impact on food security, protecting forests and oceans, ensuring sustainable management of extractive sectors and enabling our ACP agro-processing enterprises to move up and into Global Value Chains (GVCs) and derive improved incomes, skills development and decent jobs, especially among women and youth [have had impact]. ”

Gomes said that the impact of these results across several sectors is tangible proof of growing attention to specific UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“These have included reducing extreme poverty, fostering food and nutrition security, protecting land, forests, oceans and seas and upgrading living conditions in slums and urban settlements and thereby providing a strong platform for continuing progress of ACP States in achieving sustainable development in 2017 and the years ahead.”

Gomes said that while the ACP welcomes the notable gains in the rule of law and good governance by many ACP states as witnessed by the smooth transition of power by electoral means in Ghana, “we are firmly resolved that the outgoing President of the Republic of the Gambia, Yaya Jammeh, should hand over the mantle of leadership to the democratically elected President as expressed by the will of the people.

“To this unequivocal call by fellow Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States ((and by the African Union, United Nations and a host of civil society organisations in The Gambia, the ACP Group has aligned itself and urges President Jammeh to honour the electoral results and demit office by the constitutionally due date of 18 January 2017,” he said.

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