April 4 : The EU has officially proposed to eliminate all remaining quota and tariff limitations that limit the access of ACP countries to European market (see the press release of 4 April 2007).
The EU offers a full market access to ACP countries. This offer covers all products, including beef, banana, dairy products, fruit and vegetable. Rice and sugar will have a special treatment : after a transition period, they will have full access to the European market.
In concrete terms, signing the EPA, all ACP countries will have the same full access to EU markets that LDC have under the initiative "Everything but arms". Only South Africa will continue to pay import duties for a number of products. If EPA are signed, the EU offer will apply in full from January 01, 2008.
The offer does not seem to modify the European position on the asymetry of EPA. In its press release, the EU asserts that ACP countries can benefit of a long transition period before giving a full access to their markets and that they have the right to protect sensitive products. The details concerning the transition period and sensitive products still have to be negotiated.
In parallel of its market access offer, the EU has begun discussions to improve rules of origins. Indeed, these rules are often very complex. They do not permit to ACP countries to benefit of the preferential access to EU markets they have.
Transitional arrangements for sugar and rice
Transitional arrangements for sugar allow three phases, ACP sugar would have full access to European market on October 01, 2015. EU wishes to benefit of a special safeguard clause for sugar within EPA that has to be negotiated. For more details, refer to the EU document.
Transitional arrangements for rice are less detailed. The European commission makes clear that "transition towards duty free and quota free regime would be over a brief transition period. The tariff rate quota for rice would be substantially increased and the in-quota tariff rate would be 0 during this transition period" (source : press release).