In many respects 2003 was a busy year for EU/ACP relations, with the launch of regional negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements called for in the Cotonou Agreement.
As we all know, the outcome of this process is going to have a lasting influence on the ACP countries’ trade and economic relations with the enlarged Europe and with other regions of the world.
The failure of the Cancún conference has to be acknowledged for what it was, but it did bring home the scale of the obstacles still to be negotiated in order to bring about liberalization of world trade that will be beneficial to all.
But these difficulties must be overcome. They must make our ACP countries, full partners in the global discourse, all the more determined to work together with our partners, in mutual respect for one another’s positions, towards ways and means of making progress, so that our economies will be able to make the best possible preparations for the new environment to come, ensuring that they do not suffer but prosper from it.
We appreciate that the CDE, in the role assigned to it, is able to assist our ACP enterprises in their preparations for the changes ahead. Hence our consolidation of relations with the Centre, recognizing its importance as a partner to the private sector in our countries.
As this report shows, the Centre has successfully established its strategy, in the definition of which we participated alongside our European partners, and the result is a programmebased approach to targeted sectors, one which is more efficient and closely attuned to conditions in the field.
We have also encouraged the CDE in the initiatives it has taken to adapt its organization to its new approach and to update its computing resources, improving the reliability of its statistical and accounting data, and thereby the quality of its reporting to its supervisory authorities.
Now that the Centre’s basic texts have been adopted, we are watching with interest as it makes progress in the practical application of its new streamlined procedures. Crucial
among these is decentralization, through the regional field offices, of which there will soon be four, and the reconfigured and professionalized network, enabling our entrepreneurs to do business with the CDE on their own doorsteps, more promptly and conveniently.
Finally, we await the first results of the evaluations of the impact made by projects set up by the Centre, a pioneering ACP/EU institution. Analysis of these results will point to any adaptations needed to CDE facilities, to bring them into line with developments in the field.
Keeping faith with the mission entrusted to it under the Cotonou Agreement, the CDE is performing the tasks we have assigned to it with increasing efficiency. We are confident that 2004 will be the year in which it consolidates the groundwork it has done, so that it will be able to take on additional programmes and resources with which to help the private sector in our countries to grow stronger and prepare more effectively for the challenges of integration into the world economy.