EU softens on EPA

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) currently being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the East Africa Community (EAC) has gained momentum following the former’s agreement to include the development cooperation in the deal, a trade expert said Tuesday
EPA deal to boost regional exports. (File photo.)
EPA deal to boost regional exports. (File photo.)

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) currently being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the East Africa Community (EAC) has gained momentum following the former’s agreement to include the development cooperation in the deal, a trade expert said Tuesday.

The deal, which is meant to bring lesser stringent trade terms between the two economic blocs, had stalled owing to the EU’s refusal to increase its regional funding over and above what is being provided through the European Development Fund (EDF).

“This is a good step forward for the negotiations and it shows the commitment that both EU and EAC have towards making the deal fully beneficial to both parties before it can be signed,” a Trade Economist in the Ministry of Trade and Commerce said on conditions of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the institution. 

He said that most of other contentious issues had been agreed upon. The EPA negotiations originally covered the trade cooperation which deals with goods and market access as well as removal of technical barriers to trade between EAC and EU.

The negotiations were supposed to end by December 2007 but were not concluded as planned because EAC sought to include the development matrix alongside the trade matrix before it could be signed.

However, the development dimension which is of key interest for the EAC member States has been sluggish in terms of agreement and the EU was yet to make tangible commitments in terms of availing addition resources.

“The EAC has identified broad criteria targets within the development matrix such as energy, infrastructural and agricultural enhancement which the EU will be funding when the EPA is signed,” the source said.

An interim agreement was initialled so that there would be no disruption of trade and to allow more time for the negotiators to finalise on the comprehensive EPA.

“What is remaining now is that the development matrix be included in the full comprehensive EPA and this will be done when EAC and EU meet to sign the agreement in December this year,” he added.

John Bosco Kanyangoga, an International Trade Expert and Consultant in Rwanda told Business Times that the EPA should not be looked at as a challenge but also an opportunity that should be taken advantage of.

“The fact that we need to position ourselves in the present globalisation and free market era makes the EPA a pivotal effort aimed at achieving economic and industrial development for the whole of the East African region” Kanyangoga said.

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