Honourable Ministers
Secretary General of the ACP
Ladies and Gentlemen

The significance of this occasion cannot be overestimated. It signifies the determination of developing countries to take their place as meaningful players in the global economy and in global issues.

Your meeting takes place at a time when new information and communication technologies are further widening the divide between developing and developed countries; when the process of globalisation is further perpetuating the marginalisation of developing countries that started at the end of the second World War by the GATT process.

It is encouraging that we are organising ourselves, not only as Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Countries, but also as members of the developing community in our various formations. In this regard an exchange of views on negotiation experiences such as this one is long overdue.

We strongly believe that trade flows and sound trade policies are a crucial aspect of economic development. They play a central role in stimulating economic growth, integration, regional economic co-operation and political stability.

The ACP and the European Union have been partners in development for more than 25 years, but in 8 years that will change to a relationship dominated by economic and trade issues. Therefore we must prepare ourselves for a new relationship with our partners in the developed world, that moves from a developmental partnership to one that is dominated by economic and trade issues.

I have noted that in your deliberations you concluded that lack of capacity is a major limitation to our ability to engage our partners meaningfully. I believe that this workshop is the beginning of the capacity building process. You must therefore not lose the momentum that has been gathering since the beginning of your workshop.

As we conclude this workshop it is quite clear that a lot of work remains to be done in identifying key areas of need and to design the means of building this much needed capacity to ensure sustainable results.

Central to the success of this is the need to create an environment in our various countries that is conducive to trade. We need to ensure capacity, not only as it relates to our ability to negotiate with our EU partners, but also in the various social institutions that contribute to a stable environment. These would include, amongst others, a well functioning judicial system, stable financial institutions and so on. These institutions are important to attract foreign investment.

Our own experience in South Africa has taught us that private-public sector co-operation contributes positively to the creation of that environment and this is an area that we might all want to look at. These institutions help to strengthen society and are a necessary condition to a stable environment that is able to attract foreign investment and trade.

It is important to recognise however that this merely lays the foundation and does not automatically translate into an avalanche of investment. South Africa has very strong economic fundamentals, a fact that is admitted to by various countries and rating agencies, but we still do not get enough foreign direct investment because of factors such as negative perceptions.

It is clear that as part of our capacity building exercise we need to pay special attention to our capacity to market our countries and counter these negative perceptions. Crucial to achieving all this is the availability of financial resources. I therefore believe that a priority area in the interim is to make use of the resources available under the various European Development Funds.

I have been informed that accessing these funds is not an easy and simple task. It is precisely for this reason that Ministers must strategies on how to create mechanisms to unlock these funds.

As developing countries, most of us are faced with a problem of relatively small domestic markets that would affect our ability to attract foreign investment and trade in a meaningful way. Thus I would hope that regional integration remains a central focus in our deliberations and strategies.

A major challenge in this regard is how to utilise available resources to create strong regional institutions that allow us to increase trade amongst ourselves first thus boosting confidence in each other's economies and creating a stronger trading bloc.

For example it is important that we conclude and implement the SADC Protocol quicker than our agreement with the EU. The problems we have faced in this regard have related to the limitations of capacity and the heterogeneous nature of SADC countries that makes it difficult for us to find common ground.

Thus it is important for the 77 ACP member countries to find this common ground, as failure to do so will render us vulnerable to being played one against the other. While it is important for each country to define its own development objectives it is equally important that these should fit in within a common regional framework.

Furthermore, we have a responsibility to guard against disintegration of the ACP group of states. We may negotiate as regions; individual countries or any other fora that would serve our interests best but these negotiations must not be at the expense of a united African- Caribbean-Pacific Group of States.

Over the coming few years the ACP will be negotiating on various fronts, at the multilateral level, with the EU and maybe at regional level. The priority negotiations however are likely to be at the multilateral level. This most certainly will be the case for the EU.

Thus it is important that we should not make the same mistakes we made in the past. We should ensure that our concerns as the developing world are taken on board at the WTO for instance.

Multilateral rules offer the scope for broadening market access and provide the least risk for trade diversion as all countries, and regions, must abide by WTO rules. Your agenda included a discussion on trade related issues, such as rules of origin, standards and others. These are the new forms of protectionism.

Of course I do not have to tell that to Trade Ministers, as you are experts in this area. I do however want to say that it is very important that you continue discussions on such technical issues. If not, those who have the ability to do so will decide matters for us. Technical competence will help to ensure that agreements between the EU and ACP states will be defensible at the WTO.

Having said the above, I would like to take this opportunity to talk briefly about conflicts, particularly in Africa. Discussions of this nature would not be complete without us paying some attention to the issue of poverty and conflict.

Poverty and underdevelopment in our countries are escalating due to preventable wars and conflicts. This means we must renew our commitment to a partnership that will create conditions of peace, stability and good governance. Thus the issue must always be an important part of our agenda.

These wars, in addition to bringing poverty and displacement, deny us the opportunity to develop important areas for development, such as basic infrastructure, which is almost at zero level in some of our countries.

It will be impossible to attract foreign direct investment without infrastructure such as efficient communication systems, road-rail-air and navigation systems as well as properly functioning financial systems.

In conclusion we would like to emphasise the need for us to ensure that we have not merely engage in yet another talk over the past two days. From this workshop must emerge concrete resolutions accompanied by an implementable programme of action.

I thank you.

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