Sugar, bananas and cotton are key commodities for ACP countries in terms of production and export to the EU. These commodities have formed part of the EU's preferential trade relations with developing countries over the years.
Sugar is a key example of the EU's preferential trade relations with ACPs. For many years the EU has provided preferential access to its market for sugar imported from ACP countries.
The market is being opened up to the ACP countries in stages:
- until 30 September 2009: the terms offered by the Sugar Protocol were maintained;
- from 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2015: ACPs have free access to the market the only restriction being an automatic safeguard clause for non-LDC ACPs;
- from 1 October 2015: there will be free access to the market for all ACP countries under EPAs, with the general safeguard clause remaining applicable.
The new trade arrangements are laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 828/2009.
In 2012, ACP exports of sugar to the EU accounted for EUR 739 million, with 1.4m tonnes exported.
The EU is the largest consumer and importer of bananas in the world, with 80% of EU imports from Latin America and 20% from ACP countries (practically all ACP banana exports).
Since 2006, the "Everything But Arms" initiative grants duty-free quota-free access for bananas from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to the EU market.
Since 2008, Non-LDC ACP countries have also benefitted from duty-free and quota-free access under the Economic Partnership agreement, resulting in a rise in overall banana imports into the EU of 3.7% in 2008 (9% from ACPs on 2007 levels) and further increase of 4.3% in 2009.
2009 also saw a resolution to the longest dispute in the history of the WTO, with a deal reached on bananas, which also includes an approach on tropical products and preference erosion in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) agreed among the EU, Latin American countries and ACPs.
In 2012, ACP exports of bananas to the EU accounted for over EUR 627 million.
Internationally, the EU is a minor player, contributing only about 2 % to the world's total production of cotton. This implies that the impact of EU production on the evolution of world market prices has been negligible.
This is further strengthened by the fact that the EU does not use export subsidies for this sector and offers duty free access.
The EU supports C4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) and other African cotton producing countries through the EU-Africa Cotton Partnership, which has led to the mobilisation of more than EUR 300 million for development of the cotton sector.
In 2012, ACP exports of cotton to the EU accounted for around EUR 70 million.