Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Implications of EPAs in Eastern and Southern Africa examined

Commonwealth News and Information Service (London) 2008-09-12

The business implications of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and countries in Eastern and Southern Africa were discussed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 9 and 10 September, 2008.

Around 60 senior representatives from trade and industry ministries in Eastern and Southern Africa along with private sector representatives discussed enhancing private sector awareness on the initial agreement made by the African nations in their negotiations with the EU.

“For businesses in African, Caribbean and Pacific [ACP] countries, preferences provided under the trade agreements known as Lomé/Cotonou have given them advantages to support themselves through commercial activity”, said Veniana Qalo, an Economic Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat. “But, aid and preferential exports are eroding as small trading economies are urged by economic orthodoxy and international organisations to embrace the global economy.”

“Because of the challenges arising from these new negotiations, this is an important time for the notable players from Eastern and Southern Africa to meet and come up with concrete strategies on how they can meet these concerns and benefit from the EPAs”, Qalo said.

The EPAs are regional trade agreements between ACP countries and the EU which aim to sustain their development and reduce poverty.

The meeting provided public sector participants with the opportunity to share information with the private sector about what has been negotiated in the context of the interim EPAs, as well as the business implications which emerge from these negotiations. Also discussed was the future of the negotiations – what can be done to improve the market access for key sectors. 

“Strengthening the understanding of participants at this event on what are complex issues is a fundamental goal of this conference. By its conclusion we want all participants to be better equipped to address decisions which will have an enormous impact on their countries’ trading relationships and consequently on their development as a whole”, said Ms Qalo.

Country representatives were invited to submit papers on both domestic and regional concerns over the trade agreements.

The paper from the Seychelles stated: “The EPA will open up the domestic market to duty free goods originating from the European Union, which may render the locally produced goods uncompetitive in relation to cheaper goods from the EU and in turn have a negative impact on the Seychelles’ economy.” These and other concerns were shared among participants over the two-day event.

The Secretariat, in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (Geneva), facilitated this private-public sector dialogue.