Daily News  :: North Africa

ACP summit looks at future of EU trade

Published: 07-DEC-06

Khartoum - The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) kicks off a two-day summit in Khartoum on Thursday to discuss its future when it loses its privileged access to European markets.

Amid crippling economic sanctions maintained by Washington over the relentless violence in Darfur, oil-rich Sudan is seeking to raise its profile as a business hub and seek partnerships with other countries.

Representatives from some of ACP's 79 member states - including 16 heads of state - will gather under the slogan "United for peace, solidarity and sustainable development".

The heads of state will also review talks over the Economic Partnership Agreements due to come into force in 2008 and remove non-reciprocal trade preferences for ACP countries in the European market.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson recently said that the agreements are aimed at turning ACP countries from "aid beneficiaries to prosperous economic partners".

ACP countries will also work to extend economic co-operation with countries outside the EU through a business forum held on Wednesday, bringing together companies from a range of developed and developing countries.

The ACP was founded in Togo with the signature in 1975 of the Lom� Convention in a bid by European countries to guarantee a steady supply of raw materials.

Analysts and officials say Khartoum is also hoping the summit will help it muster support for its position on the almost four-year-old conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

The West has been pushing for an embattled contingent of African observers currently deployed in Darfur to be replaced by a robust force of UN peacekeepers.

But Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir has consistently rejected such an option as well as compromise solutions for a �hybrid force", accusing Washington of seeking to invade his country and plunder its resources.

According to the United Nations, at least 200�000 people have died from the combined effects of war and famine since the fighting erupted in Darfur in February 2003. Some sources put the toll much higher. -AFP

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