EPAs seminar presses for win-win outcome

PARLIAMENT - Participants during Wednesday’s consultative seminar on the role of Parliament and the private sector in negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) urged key stakeholders to ensure a win-win outcome for both sides.
A cross section of MPs. Parliament began its last session as it gears up for fresh parliamentary elections in September. (Photo / G. Barya).
A cross section of MPs. Parliament began its last session as it gears up for fresh parliamentary elections in September. (Photo / G. Barya).

PARLIAMENT - Participants during Wednesday’s consultative seminar on the role of Parliament and the private sector in negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) urged key stakeholders to ensure a win-win outcome for both sides.

Government, Parliament and the private sector were all urged to make regular follow-ups on the content and progress of the negotiations.

Both chambers of Parliament are also expected to set up special permanent commissions and regularly consult grassroot stakeholders.

“Following up on the on-going negotiations and subsequent implementation process is necessary,” Hon. Agnes Mukazibera said while reading the meeting’s resolutions.

The government and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) were also advised to inform the business community about EPAs and the signed interim agreement, clearly pointing out the contribution of EPAs to regional integration, industrial development, employment opportunities and other economic benefits.

They will verify whether the agreements are reciprocal based on a principle of a well-understood partnership and ask the EU to contribute towards financing necessary infrastructure for development of competitive export products.

The resolutions were arrived at after a wide-range of explanations was given to allay most of the fears expressed by legislators.

Vincent Karega, the State Minister in charge of Industry and Investment Promotion, presented a paper on the background of ACP-EU relations and why the agreements were needed.

Simon Vanden Broeke, an expert with the EC country delegation shed light on the agreements, presenting a gradual, controlled and mutually advantageous liberalisation process.

Participants reiterated the need for the country to step up efforts in improving the quality of its goods and services if it was to compete favourably in trade with the EU.

“We have to be competitive at whatever cost,” said Karega.

“We need to think broadly – we need to position ourselves by providing better quality products and services.”

He pointed out that most of ‘the fears’ surrounding the EPAs are more psychological than real, stressing that no country would offer Rwanda a comparative advantage unless “you have to create your products, your brand.”

“No single country is going charity, every country is strategic and Africa should be thinking strategically for the future,” said Karega.

Alain Destexhe, the representative of the Association of Western Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), talked about the Belgian–EPAs experience while highlighting the role of lawmakers in the negotiations.

PSF president Robert Bayigamba and other officials from the private sector shed light on the competitiveness of Rwandan goods.

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