Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Africa urged not to rush trade agreements with EC

New Ziana (The Southern Times, Harare) 2009-03-09 

A regional conference on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) held in Harare, Zimbabwe recently highlighted the need for African regional groupings not to rush into signing binding agreements with the European Commission (EC).

Delegates said that it is critical for negotiators to make thorough assessments and negotiations to ensure a comprehensive agreement is reached before signing.

Trade economist Rangarirai Machemedze has said that “[t]here is no rush to put pen to paper. That does not, however, mean that negotiators should stall the negotiations. There should be progress based on thorough assessments and consultations.”

There is never a smooth flow in trade negotiations, he noted, citing the collapse of world trade talks in December.

Negotiations for EPAs, trade facilitation agreements allowing unhindered market access, are being conducted by three trading blocs in the region: the East African Community, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

According to ESA chief technical advisor Moses Tekere, it is crucial for the trading blocs to find a common understanding within themselves before liberalising markets for the EC.

“Regional groups must act in solidarity”, he said. “Rushing into an agreement with Europe without finding a common ground will undermine regional integration.”