Development – the focus of trade talks

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 5, 2007 – European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson last night insisted that trade talks with Caribbean officials that opened yesterday were so far “promising.”

“The negotiations are serious, focused and promising and while there are a number of issues to be resolved I do not believe they will prevent us from reaching agreement,” Mandelson said in a statement issued in Brussels following the first day of meeting.

The EU and 79 mostly former European colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific are in talks in Montego Bay, Jamaica to replace preferential trade deals which the World Trade Organization has ruled illegal and must be ended by December 31.

The meeting comes as the EU announced last week that it will scrap its 32 year old sugar trading pact with the Caribbean and other ACP countries. Under the agreement, eighteen ACP sugar producing states received guaranteed duty-free access to the EU market for their raw sugar cane and sugar beet.

Meanwhile, new Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, yesterday insisted that it “is important that as the deadlines drawn near and the negotiations intensify, we negotiate an agreement which places development at its core and takes account of the interest of the countries and peoples of the region.” (