Dáil Éireann - Volume 602 - 11 May, 2005

Written Answers. - Economic Partnership Agreements.

  204. Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he shares the concerns and reservation expressed by the UK Government in respect of economic partnership agreements; and if the Government intends to seek to negotiate changes to the EU position on EPAs. [15597/05]

  Mr. Ahern: I have read with interest the recent position paper that sets out the UK view on how best the commitment to put development at the heart of the EPA negotiations can be best delivered. I would agree with the basic thrust of an approach to the EPAs which ensures that the needs and concerns of developing countries are taken adequately into consideration during the substantive phase of these negotiations. I note in particular that, more recently, in the context of the further progression of EPA negotiations, Commissioner Mandelson has indicated that he is putting the EPA process under continuing review, with a new review mechanism to ensure that at every stage in the negotiations the development dimension is put first. I fully support this approach by the commissioner.

As trade is a European Community competence, it is the European Commission which conducts the negotiations on the EPAs between the EU and six regional groupings of ACP states on behalf of the member states. The Commission provides the Council with regular updates on the progress of the negotiations. Ireland is satisfied that the Commission is discharging its mandate in accordance with the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement and in a manner which is sensitive to the particular concerns of the ACP states.

Ireland is actively following the developments in the EPA negotiations process and will continue to do so. In so far as the discussions within the EU Council, including the Article 133 Committee, are concerned, Ireland will have full regard to the content of the UK paper. In all of these discussions, we will be insisting that the Commission discharge its mandate in accordance with the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement and in a manner which is sensitive to the particular concerns of ACP States.