Trade and Industry Minister, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Tuesday appeared before Parliament to brief lawmakers on issues related to delays in signing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
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).
Addressing the Parliament, Minister Nsanzabaganwa gave a detailed background on the origin of the EPAs and pointed a finger at the EU for being responsible for the delays in signing the agreements.
“Despite the challenges we are facing to come up with an agreement, we are optimistic we will reach a consensus some day,” she said.
The Minister also added that, although there are other options to be considered in case all parties involved fail to reach an agreement, the involved parties are not looking at other alternatives yet apart from pushing the negotiations.
There were two broad categories of issues that remained outstanding and key to the signing of EPAs framework (FEPA):
Nsanzabaganwa noted that there are articles where there is consensus on the wording but divergence on whether they should be incorporated into FEPA or the comprehensive EPA.
The other challenge to the signing is the divergence is on articles where consensus has not been reached on the reformulation.
The scope of the full negations include customs and trade, outstanding trade and market access issues including rules of origin technical barriers to trade and trade in services among others.
She however noted that there is a position paper on the EPAs, including analysis of the contentious issues and various options for Africa in the negotiations that has been circulated and being used as a reference document.
During the parliamentary briefing, several MPs tabled their position on the signing of the EPAs, with most of them pointing out that Europe wants to use the EPAs to oppress African countries in areas of trade.
However, the Minister succeeded in convincing the MPs by pointing out that Europe has a lot more to benefit in signing the EPAs than EAC member states.
All EPAs have their origins in the trade chapter of the Cotonou Agreement – a broad agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. EPAs are aimed at promoting sustainable development and growth, poverty reduction, better governance and the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.