ECDPM reported in May 2014 that “the Central Africa region has reopened the EPA dossier after years of relative inactivity.” This followed indications that Cameroon was considering signing its existing bilateral interim EPA which was concluded at the end of 2007, given the importance of duty-free access to Cameroonian banana exports to the EU.
EU banana imports: from Cameroon and in total, 2006–2013 (tonnes)
|EU banana imports from Cameroon||EU total banana imports|
Source: EC, ‘Banana supply in the EU’, 12 March 2014 (see below)
In the 4 years from 2010 to 2013, average annual imports of Cameroonian bananas into the EU were 6% below the annual average of the preceding 4 years (2006–2009). However, by 2013 EU imports from Cameroon were 2.58% above import levels in 2010, suggesting that recovery in production was under way.
In February 2014, the CEMAC Council of Ministers had “expressed concerns regarding Cameroon’s application of its Interim EPA” and had called on “sectoral ministers to… come up with an action plan to speed up the conclusion of a regional EPA”. Cameroon is a member of the six-nation Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC). According to reports from the CEMAC Council of Ministers, “the EU has reportedly agreed to drop the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause from negotiations in Central Africa.” While “the region is ready to open its market to the tune of 73% of tariff lines over 20 years,” ministers have strongly insisted that “any tariff dismantlement” should be linked to “solid commitments on the EU’s behalf to finance the region’s accompanying adjustment plan, the Programme d’Accompagnement du Développement dans le cadre de l’APE (PRADA)”. Central African Ministers are also reported to be keen on negotiating provisions on services.
Cameroon is currently holding its own on the EU banana market. But with the accelerating process of tariff reductions in the banana sector for dollar banana supplied from countries that have concluded FTAs with the EU, competition for Cameroonian banana exporters can only increase in the coming years. Any loss of duty-free access for Cameroon’s banana exports in this context would have severe implications for the country’s banana exporters.
Concluding a regional EPA or ratifying the interim EPA before the 1 October 2014 deadline can