Poor strategies daunt EPA talks, EALA says

Poor strategies and tactics employed by East African Community (EAC) negotiators, who are not well informed about EAC interests, is the main reason why the community has failed to strike a deal on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with European Union (EU), a top regional official said.
The Economic partnership agreements will boost trade between EAC and EU. (File photo)
The Economic partnership agreements will boost trade between EAC and EU. (File photo)

Poor strategies and tactics employed by East African Community (EAC) negotiators, who are not well informed about EAC interests, is the main reason why the community has failed to strike a deal on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with European Union (EU), a top regional official said.

Peter Kiguta, the Director General of Customs and Trade in the EAC Secretariat, told East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), Tuesday, in Kigali that the two parties failed to agree on how issues on development cooperation should be addressed to their mutual satisfaction.

“On top of putting in place institutional arrangements to implement the agreement, the EAC Secretariat plans to undertake training and research to build negotiators’ capacity to define EAC’s position better,” Kiguta said

He added that the limited financial capacity by EAC partner states is one of the challenges leading to inconsistencies and affecting the continuity of the negotiations.

The two parties have, however, resolved to continue negations on trade facilitation, environment sustainability, investment and private sector development.

“Whereas EAC identified the need to secure financing of the development matrix within the framework of the EPAs, the EU maintains that it already supports EAC development through EDF and stand alone bilateral cooperation with EU member states,” he said.

Statistics presented during the Assembly indicate that the EU has become EAC’s major trade partner in the world.

EAC’s exports to Europe swelled from 22.7 percent in 2008 to 23.3 percent in 2009 of the total exports from the region (25 percent being agricultural products), whereas imports rose from 18.3 percent to 19.1 percent.

The EPAs will replace trade provisions of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement signed in 2000, where parties agreed to conclude new WTO trading arrangements by removing barriers to trade between them and enhancing cooperation in all areas relevant to trade.

“EAC’s position has been guided by negotiating as a bloc to support regional integration, and looking into flexibilities of the World Trade Organization to improve the region’s trade,” Kiguta said.

After failing to beat several deadlines in the past, the parties agreed to finalise the comprehensive EPA negotiations by the end of 2011.

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