The EU has given eight ACP countries – including fish exporting countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya and Namibia – an “ultimatum” to sign their EPA by October 2014 or risk losing their preferences, as they are not classified as “less developed countries” and cannot therefore benefit from the ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) scheme for exporting fish products duty free, even in the absence of an EPA.
While Namibia and Kenya are mainly exporting white fish to the EU markets, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Fiji have an important tuna industry, with most of their exports going to the EU. Without the duty free access for canned tuna and pre-cooked loins, their industries will lose their competitiveness in the EU market.
Two years ago, the EU proposed to suspend tariff preferences if EPAs were not ratified by January 2014. The European Parliament recently voted to extend the deadline to October 2014.
In the case of Côte d’Ivoire, this comes at a time when the EU and Côte d’Ivoire have just agreed a new fisheries partnership agreement protocol, which facilitates the landing in Abidjan of important quantities of tuna caught by EU vessels, and their export to the EU. The withdrawal of Côte d’Ivoire tariffs preferences to access the EU market would affect the whole equilibrium of the EU–Côte d’Ivoire FPA.
FFA Trade News also reports that: “There is considerable anxiety among Fiji-based exporters of fish products to the EU.” Although Fiji agreed to an Interim EPA, it did not implement it. Even if Fiji could export under the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (EU GSP), it could then only use fish caught by EU or Fijian boats, as the EU GSP would not include a “global sourcing” derogation to the rules of origin, and does not currently allow for regional cumulation.
ACP countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Namibia or Fiji are improving their access to the EU market in different ways. For Côte d’Ivoire, the signing of a bilateral FPA which supports tuna landings in Abidjan and improves compliance with EU sanitary requirements (by supporting landing and handling port infrastructures) is boosting its tuna products’ exports to the EU market. In the case of Fiji, one of its tuna fisheries was recently eco-labelled, which makes its products attractive for some EU “environmentally conscious” markets. In case such countries would lose the tariff preferences they currently enjoy, it would certainly slow down such developments. This calls for increased coherence, in the EU approach, between its development, trade and fisheries policies.