GUEST EDITORIAL: Dr Patrick I. Gomes,  Secretary General of the ACP Group


Well-deserved and hearty congratulations are due to the ACT Alliance Brussels Office for its support to the website, providing remarkably well-informed and thoughtful analysis of developments on ACP-EU agro-food trade issues. The issues raised are of considerable value to the ACP Group for routine dialogues with our European partners.

The coverage of BREXIT, as it impacts specifically on ACP countries, is extremely valuable to our Missions and Embassies in Brussels and Geneva, offering a comprehensive compendium of data and case-studies to guide informed decision-making in the capitals. I strongly commend to our readers this 2 volume compilation of articles on Brexit posted on the website since the 15th December 2016.

The articles involving country and sector specific analysis of the effects of Brexit on ACP members are particularly useful. It is something I would strongly encourage trade officials and private sector associations in ACP countries to become  familiar with, so similar country an sector specific assessments can be undertaken. This would facilitate contingency planning and give substance to coordinated ACP initiatives aimed at assisting affected ACP exporters in adjusting to the changed market conditions brought about by Brexit.

While it is primarily Commonwealth ACP countries which have the most to lose from a badly handled Brexit process, non-Commonwealth ACP members will also be affected. As a consequence all ACP countries have a common interest in making sure alternative trade arrangements are set in place for all ACP members from day 1 of the UK’s formal departure from the EU.

In terms of dealing with the trade effects of Brexit on ACP countries, I am increasingly gravitating towards to the Ramphal Institute’s suggestion for a 2 stage approach to future ACP-UK trade relations, consisting of :

  1. the transitional unilateral extension of current market access conditions by the UK government from 30th March 2019; and
  2. the subsequent negotiation of a new long term framework, based on re-fitting the existing EU-ACP EPAs.  This however will have to include important ‘EPA+’ elements which address the policy changes which are likely to take place in the UK once it is no longer part of the EU.

I share the concerns of Prime Minister May over the importance of avoiding ‘a disruptive cliff edge’ in trade relations, although I am primarily concerned with the effects on ACP countries not the UK.

I believe the establishment of a transitional arrangement, pending the refitting of existing EPAs into bilateral trade agreements with the UK (once the future trajectory of UK domestic sectoral and trade policies are known), is essential to avoiding ‘a disruptive cliff edge’ in ACP exports to the UK.

This may require a joint ACP-EU28 initiative in the WTO to avert any challenge by WTO members to necessary transitional market access arrangements.

I believe ACP trade concerns around future trade relations with the UK post-Brexit will need to be addressed independently of the state of UK-EU27 negotiations. There will however also be important EU27 dimensions to the trade effects of Brexit on ACP agri-food sectors. These too will need to be addressed.

At one level, these require detailed technical examination (for example, addressing the effects of the absence of the UK on EU27 risk assessment procedures which determine the SPS costs of market access). At another level, for some ACP countries, particularly in the Caribbean, the effects of the UKs departure are profound indeed.  For these countries the hard reality is the departure of the UK from the EU will massively reduce the commercial value of existing trade arrangements with the EU. For example, some Caribbean countries depend on the UK market for 75% of their exports to the EU while in individual sectors (sugar) others are almost exclusively dependent on the UK market. The specific case studies of critically exposed ACP member states warrant our detailed attention.

For these countries remedial trade measures will be required if the economic benefits derived from a trade agreement with an EU of 27 are not to be profoundly undermined.

Against this background of the complexity of the issues and the uncertainties faced, I am convinced that it is necessary to explore the establishment of an ACP-UK Joint Working Group, aimed at ensuring that the fundamental interests of all ACP members are protected, regardless of size or what may be politically attractive to the UK.

Let me strongly commend careful and consistent perusal of the articles included in this two volume compilation and encourage regular visits to the website. ACP, UK and EU officials, stakeholders and concerned agencies, will benefit enormously by a common understanding of the issues at stake and the scope for constructive approaches to addressing ACP trade concerns in the agri-food sector. Enjoyable and informative reading!!

Dr. Patrick I. Gomes,
ACP Secretary General 

Dr. Patrick Ignatius Gomes of Guyana was elected the new Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) at the 100th Session of the Group’s Council of Ministers, held at ACP Headquarters in Brussels on December 10, 2014.

Prior to taking up his position as the Secretary General of the ACP Group, Dr. Gomes served as Guyana’s Ambassador to Belgium and the European Community and as Guyana’s representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO). Dr. Gomes also served as Chair of the Working Group on Future Perspectives of the ACP Group.

He was the Dean of ACP Ambassadors in Brussels, and Chair of the Sub-Committee on Sugar and previously served as Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors, a decision-making body of the ACP Group.

Dr Gomes has also worked for the United Nations as a senior adviser in Human Resources Development at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. He has authored numerous publications in the areas of development and social policy analysis and served as Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Maastricht-based think tank, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM).

Dr. Gomes will serve as Secretary General for the ACP for the period 2015 – 2020.