tralac EPA Review Workshop, 23 January 2008
Critical evaluation of the EPA negotiation process
The first phase of the EPA negotiations is now completed and Member States are preparing themselves for the next round of negotiations. The process up to now has been fraught with numerous challenges while some complications are even threatening to be carried over to the second phase of the negotiations. South Africa has refused to initial the interim EPA (IEPA), making its position regarding regional integration and its involvement in the EPA vague and unclear.
Although Namibia eventually initialled the IEPA, this was done on the understanding that its concerns would be addressed through the negotiations towards a comprehensive EPA1. The uncertainty about the manner in which the process will be taken forward obscures the current decision making processes, not only for the EPA but also for trade policy making in general. The workshop afforded participants the opportunity to critically reflect on the progress made since Cotonou and the obstacles encountered during the negotiation process.
This was an inward-looking exercise to determine the effectiveness of the preparations, the reaction of the Member States to the constant challenges during the process and the synergy (or lack of it) within the SADC EPA configuration. The eventual EPA should facilitate good economic decisions and competitiveness to address the fundamental development challenges – a critical evaluation of the process up to now can be a crucial ingredient to chart the way forward.