ARUSHA – The East African Business Council commends the progress East African Community (EAC) and European Commission have made towards sorting out contentious issues in the Framework Economic Partnership Agreement expected to be signed by the end of March, 2010.
At a joint EAC-EC meeting in Brussels, Belgium between February 23 and 24, 2010, the two teams made progress on sticky issues in development cooperation and agreed on roadmap towards signing FEPA and completing negotiations for comprehensive EPA.
According to the agreed roadmap, the Framework Economic Partnership (FEPA) is expected to be ready for signing by end of March 2010 and comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is expected to be signed by December 2010.
The Acting Executive Director of East African Business Council (EABC), Ms Agatha Nderitu, said, “The prolonged impasse on contentious issues in FEPA had created uncertainty among the business community especially in Kenya over whether their goods to the European Union (EU) would soon attract tariffs.”
She added, “The two teams agreeing on how to proceed is a positive development for the business community, in that we can now make recommendations with a clearer roadmap in place.”
The roadmap comes at a time when EABC is planning a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania between March 11th and 12th, 2010 that will bring together the private sector in the region to fine tune position papers on various EPA clusters for submission to the EAC negotiating team.
Some of the private sector positions will be on Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures as well as Agriculture, Economic and Development Cooperation and Trade Related Issues namely Competition, Intellectual Property Rights, Investment & Private Sector Development, and Transparency in Public Procurement.
The meeting will be a follow up to an earlier meeting held between November 27 and 28, 2009 in Arusha, Tanzania where participants agreed to continue consulting and come up with harmonized positions on various EPA clusters.
Ms Nderitu said, “EPA should guarantee EAC Products more access to EU Markets beyond duty free and quota market access by having simple and flexible Rules of Origin; more business friendly TBT & SPS and EU cutting substantially its domestic support and doing away with export subsidy programmes in the agriculture sector.”