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EU Ultimatum For Three Tuna Exporting African Countries

The European Union (EU) has given four tuna exporting African countries, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, and Kenya an ultimatum to sign the controversial Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by October 2014 or risk losing their privileged zero duty trade status tariffs.

The three tuna producing nations are among seven African countries risk being required to pay tariffs on exports to the EU if they fail to honor trade agreements signed with Brussels in 2007. Namibia, Botswana, Cameroon and Swaziland are the four other nations.

The seven countries were granted extensions until next October by the European parliament to sanction their interim economic partnership agreements (EPAs).

Under EPA, the seven have been able to export goods to the EU without tariffs or maximum quotas based on World Trade Organization rules. Especially Ivory Coast, Ghana and Kenya have a tuna industry of considerable size, which is almost exporting 100% of it products to the European Union. Without the duty free tariff for canned tuna and pre-cooked loins the industries of these nations would have a difficult time being profitable, and lose their competitiveness in the EU market. Within the EU the full import tariff for canned tuna is 24%.

Two years ago, the European Union projected suspending the agreement if the countries did not ratify the EPA by January 2014.

The European parliament then voted in a strong majority to extend the deadline to October 2014.

“Allowing unilateral and free access to certain countries is a violation of the WTO’s rules and is clearly only a temporary solution. The time has come to fix a deadline,” said British Labor MEP, David Martin, who drafted parliament’s report.

“We regret that the parliament and the council of the EU did not accept our proposal to give these African countries enough breathing space in negotiations.”

The proposal that would have given the seven countries “breathing space” was a 2016 deadline.

Under the current agreement, the African countries benefit from very favorable terms compared with their international competitors for exports to Europe notably of certain food besides tuna they include banana, beef and sugar.