EPA-ESA Ministers and Senior officials meeting

As senior officials from Eastern and Southern Africa on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) and ministers meet tomorrow 5th December 2008 they should critically look at having a comprehensive document that will certainly foster development for both the European Community Bloc and the ESA countries before concluding the full document by December 31st 2008.

In finalising the contentious issues identified at technical level negotiations, the state of play and the outstanding issues among other things; rules of origin, Export Taxes, Quantitative Restriction, standstill Clause and Bilateral safeguards should be looked at critically and addressed.

On 27th November 2008 Cote d’Ivoire signed a full EPA by also opening up 80% to the European community bloc to promote bilateral trade and allow free flow European products. Yes it has opened, but the question is, is Zambia or other countries in the ESA bloc ready to open up to 80%? Thus, the importance of clearly defining substantially all trade and time frame becomes important. Further, it’s also worth noting that the opening of its markets (Cote d’Ivoire) on food stuff might have serious implications and is a danger to infant industries and agricultural development because they might be undermined.

Therefore, the final text should ensure that the proposed or remaining restricted tariffs will be absolutely beneficial to the (ESA) countries and that the then opened percentage will not kill the already existing industries especially infants be protected. If this is done it will certainly help promote development, improve the competitiveness of enterprises and enlarge shares in the European market.

Finally, as Consumer Unity and Trust Society – Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC), we suggest that by the time of signing the full agreement all the concerns raised by ESA countries should be addressed so that EPAs are concluded on a win to win situation and not leave any country worse than they are presently.