Commission compromise on ‘Everything but Arms’ initiative

Commission compromise on ‘Everything but Arms’ initiative could delay opening of EU sugar and rice markets until 2008

At the weekly Commission meeting on 17 January, Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy was forced to amend his Everything but Arms (EBA) proposal. The EBA initiative is designed to give unrestricted duty-free access to the EU for all products from 48 of the world's least developed countries (LDCs) except those relating to the arms industry. Mr Lamy saw the EBA proposal as a way of helping LDCs to adopt the kind of policies that will promote development.

The Commission decided on 17 January to take into account the concerns of the farming lobby and some Member States on the sensitive agricultural products of bananas, sugar and rice. The practical outcome of this is that the Commission proposal for the date of completion of the originally envisaged liberalisation transition period has been changed from 2004 to 2006 for bananas and 2008 for sugar and rice.

Mr Lamy now has to take this revised proposal to the Council for approval. Despite the compromises that have been made, commentators feel that some Member States and the farming lobby will continue to oppose the EBA.

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