EPA talks document still on the drawing board
Experts negotiating the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union are still preparing a consolidated text to guide them towards reaching a final agreement, says one of the EPA representatives.
Nathan Gashaija, Director of Economic and Financial sectors in the Ministry of EAC, told The New Times yesterday that the talks were on course and were coming to a conclusion.
The EAC and EU have failed to agree on EPA negotiations since 2007, when the talks kicked off, after failure to agree on how development cooperation issues should be addressed to their mutual satisfaction.
The agreements are meant to bring lesser stringent trade terms between the two economic blocs. They contain market access offers made by both the EAC and European Council (EC) to each other.
“We are currently preparing a consolidated text that will guide us in negotiations. EU prepares its own and vice versa. We have been discussing some of the areas in the content with our EU counterparts and where we fail to agree, we leave it to the council of ministers to decide,” he explained.
Gashaija stated that next week Rwanda will host a meeting of EPA experts from the region to discuss some of the areas in the text that have been highlighted.
He pointed out that the question of the stalling of EAC-EU EPA negotiations was out of question as some people in the region thought.
The official further mentioned that after the preparation of the consolidated text, it will be shared among East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), EAC Judicial Affairs and the Council of Ministers.
According to Dr. James Ndahiro, Rwanda’s member of East African Legislative Assembly, the participants from the region and beyond on Thursday concluded a workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, on the interaction between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and EPA negotiations, and urged the Partner States to include the Brussels and Geneva based EAC Ambassadors and senior officials in their respective EPA negotiating teams.
“We want a structured coordination between Geneva and Brussels-based envoys and make good use of their networks in those capitals to support the negotiations,” he said.
Ndahiro observed that during the meeting, participants resolved that clauses hampering talks, such as the most favoured nation clause, Singaporean issues, export taxes, trade in services, should be rejected in the EPA negotiations or be handled at the ministerial level.
According to some of the resolutions from WTO and EAC, participants called upon the Council of Ministers to empower the EAC Secretariat to assume a leading role in the EPA talks as is the case with the European Commission (EC).
They urged the EAC and African Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) Secretariats to lobby with a view to getting around the EC Regulation 1528 of 2007 and keep negotiations as a bloc of Least Developed Countries.
Contact email: frank.kanyesigye[at]newtimes.co.rw