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EU to donate $2.5 bln to ex-colonies to boost their exports

The European Union agreed to donate €2 billion ($2.5 billion) of aid to developing economies to fuel their exports and ready them for new trade accords in 2008, said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. The decision, which honors pledges the world's biggest trade bloc made in Hong Kong in December, is designed partly to help governments in Africa, the Pacific and Caribbean prepare to carry out market-access agreements that are being re-negotiated with the EU. The current accords expire on January 1, 2008. „Aid for trade is a stepping stone to sustainable development, building the capacity to trade,” Mandelson said in an e-mailed statement from his office in Brussels. Two-way trade with the former colonies was worth €55 billion in 2004, according to the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm. A quarter of exports from the ACP nations were petroleum products, and 11% of the total was diamonds, the commission says. EU imports of commodities from 49 countries, excluding sugar, bananas and rice, have been tariff-free since 2001. (Bloomberg)