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Last updated: 28 September, 2007 - Published 18:37 GMT
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Sugar protocol scrapped
Cane farmer
A cane farmer displays the product that's an important export commodity for several ACP nations
The European Union has scrapped its 32 year old sugar trading pact with the Caribbean and other ACP countries.

Under the so-called sugar protocol, eighteen African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar producing states received guaranteed duty-free access to the EU market for their raw sugar cane and sugar beet.

The protocol gave these ACP producers a guaranteed price three times above world levels.

But European Union nations say it is necessary to end that arrangement to ensure EU trade ties with the poor countries fell in line with world trade rules.

Unanimous decision

The decision was passed without a vote during a meeting of EU ministers dealing with competition issues.

It's due to take effect in October of 2009 - and EU officials say it'll give the ACP states affected two years to wean off their preferential treatment.

It's a move that had been forewarned, and Caribbean sugar producers and their ACP counterparts had been complaining that it would devastate their sugar industries.

But the European Union says the arrangement can no longer be maintained.

European assurances

European Commission spokesman Karl Falkenburg told BBC Caribbean that the EU has already put forward "a very generous market access offer" for sugar within the European Union that will be negotiated within the economic partnership agreements context.

"So the alternative for the sugar protocol is already on the table, will be part of an EPA, and it will allow more than twice as much export of cane sugar to Europe than the sugar protocol," he said.

However several countries among them Barbados, Guyana, and Jamaica have expressed concern over the EU decision.

They and other ACP states said they were still reeling from a 36 percent cut in sugar prices under recent EU sugar reforms.

Guyana spells out concerns

Guyana's ambassador to the EU Patrick Gomes said this was a potentially double blow to their economies.

He warned that unless the guarantees of the sugar protocol are transposed into new agreements currently being negotiated the ACP states would be significantly worse off than they already are.

The European Union has offered the poorest countries phased in duty-free access under new trade pacts (EPAs) that fall in line with world trade rules.

The EU wants these economic partnership agreements being negotiated with the six designated regions of the ACP concluded by year-end.

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