Building capacity to help Africa trade better

East and Southern Africa resume negotiations on EU-EPA


East and Southern Africa resume negotiations on EU-EPA

East and Southern Africa resume negotiations on EU-EPA
Photo credit: ECDPM

After their meeting on 9 and 10 March 2015, senior officials from Member States of East and Southern Africa (ESA) agreed to resume negotiations with the EU within the framework of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in order to discuss the issues left outstanding since the last round of negotiations between the two parties, which took place in Mauritius in November 2011.

These contentious issues currently relate to several matters, including export taxes, substantially all trade and the liberalisation schedule, trade in services and safeguard measures.

Both parties also need to continue discussions on the section related to development cooperation. The current text of the EPA chapter on this issue has been broadly agreed, but ESA wishes to strengthen the language in relation to the availability of additional funds from EU Member States. On the European side, the support designated under the European Development Fund (EDF) will be considered. The EU has also explained that its Member States are eager to support ESA States in their trade efforts and that specific needs could be identified in the framework of the EU “Aid for Trade” initiative.

“Although stakeholders in the negotiations with the European Union sometimes have differing interests, it is reasonable to believe that the EPA can be an inclusive tool for economic development”, the Minister of Trade and Consumer Affairs for Madagascar, Henri Rabesahala, stated at the opening of this technical negotiation meeting.

“The full contribution of the countries in question to all the work over the next two days will fashion the future of the region”, he continued.

During their previous meeting in Lusaka in 2013, senior officials from the region recommended organising a meeting between stakeholders with the objective of concluding an agreement on the regional level to foster sustainable development and promote regional integration.

However, ESA countries will need to overcome some internal differences. Indeed, due to their constitution as a group, which includes islands in the Indian Ocean (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles), countries in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan) and landlocked countries in Southern Africa (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), the Member States of ESA were not able to put forward a common market access offer for the region. Instead, each country presented an individual offer that was designed based on their specificities. The region will first need to reach a consensus on these issues, mote some observers.

Additionally six ESA States (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe) have concluded an interim EPA with the EU. The interim EPA contains a rendezvous clause providing for negotiations on trade in services, investment, agriculture, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) provisions, technical barriers to trade (TBT), customs and trade facilitation issues and trade-related rules. All these issues are currently under discussion.

The last negotiations on the general EPA took place at the end of 2011 and, to date, none of the countries that did not join the EPA in 2007 have made an offer for trade in goods or trade in services.


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