The Ministry of Trade and industry has started a sensitization campaign on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in all sectors of economy.
The EPAs are wide ranging trade agreements covering goods, services as well as areas of broad economic cooperation between East African Community (EAC) partner states and the European Union (EU).
“The objective of this campaign and workshop is to brief the participants on the on going EPAs negotiations process, expected benefits, scope of the agreement, as well as the current trend of negotiations,” said Monique
Nsanzabaganwa Minister of Trade and Industry said on Tuesday during an inaugural workshop.
The participants in the workshop were drawn from government institutions, private sector, civil society as well as academia.
Economic partnership agreements are a scheme to create a Free Trade Area (FTA) between the European Commission of the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) countries.
They are a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with WTO rules.
The EPAs are a key element of the Cotonou Agreement, the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation and are to take effect as of 2008.
“There is little time to finalize the key issues necessary to complete the EPAs by November this year in line the agreed roadmap,” added Nsanzabaganwa.
The EAC is negotiating in five clusters of which development component has been given the first priority in EPA negotiations as a standalone chapter and a cross-cutting issue to be reflected in all other clusters.
Statistics show that from 1976 to 1999, the share of APC in total EC imports decreased from 6.7 percent to 2.8 percent while total EC Foreign Direct Investment from 1996 to 1999 fell from 2.8 percent to 1.7 percent.
While the exports from EU to APC states increased by an average of 5.4 percent per year over the period 2000 to 2006and imports by 4.8 percent over the same period.
The value of total trade flows between the EAC and the EU is about 0.12 percent of EU imports annually.
However as negotiations progress, there remains some challenges to the agreements such as commitment from the EU to respond to demands of ACP group on the additional resources, perception on trade liberalization by some ACP countries among others.