26 Apr 2007

NGOs say Europe has options for maintaining preferential trade access for poor nations

7:44 pm on 26 April 2007

The NGO Oxfam says the European Commission could still provide preferential access for poor countries after the end of this year, despite requirements of the World Trade Organisation that such arrangements end.

Many of the world's poorest countries, including nations in the Pacific, are being asked to sign new free trade deals known as Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs by the end of 2007, when their current market access preferences expire.

But a report from Oxfam International and Third World Network Africa shows that Europe could still extend preferences without breaching WTO rules, by using the so-called Generalised System of Preferences, or GSP-plus scheme.

Barry Coates, the executive director of Oxfam New Zealand says that GSP-plus could offer a level of market access very similar to that currently enjoyed by many poor nations, including for key sectors such as horticulture, fisheries and wood.