EU opens markets to world’s poorest countries

Ministers approve immediate implementation of ‘Everything but Arms’ proposal ending tariffs on goods from poorest countries

A meeting of the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 26 February approved the implementation of the Commission's 'Everything but Arms' (EBA) proposal. It will come into effect from 5 March 2001.

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. The EBA is seen as a way of helping LDCs to adopt the kind of policies that will promote development and help alleviate poverty.

Opposition from the farming lobby has led to a drastic extension of the originally envisaged liberalisation transition periods for several politically sensitive agricultural products. Full market access for LDC imports of bananas will not occur until 2006. For sugar the date is 1 July 2009 and for rice 1 September 2009. Despite these concessions, France still sought to block the EBA initiative but was unable to do so.

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