Monday, April 13, 2009

EAC warned against signing EPA blindly

By Samuel Kamndaya, The Citizen [Dar-Es-Salam]

East African Community (EAC) member states should not sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (Epa) three months to come unless shortcomings are addressed, local civil society organisations (CSOs) have warned.

Under the CSO Trade Coalition, they yesterday presented their case to MPs at a meeting in Dar es Salaam, shortcomings pointed out by various segments of society should be addressed before signing the pacts in July.

"We believe that Parliament has the responsibility for giving guidance to the ministries and defend the interests of Tanzania," noted the coalition's statement.

"There are genuine concerns from CSOs and we will bring them to Parliament and advise the Government accordingly so that it can bring them to EAC for negotiations with the EU before signing," said the deputy chairman for the Parlamentary Committee on Trade and Industry, Mr Mbaruk Mwandoro, said.

The coalition warned EAC that it would lose to EU if no steps were taken to fine-tune the interim Epa which was signed between the two blocs in December 2007.

Among the areas of concern include the reciprocating approach in the opening up process as provided for in the interim Epa.

The CSOs want the EU to address issues of phytosanitary and how the EAC would benefit from Epa. They noted that transparency was lacking in the Epa negotiation, with CSOs and Parliament not fully involved in the process.

Describing Epa as a failed document, they urged the two parties to take into account the impact of the global economic crisis on EAC before the agreement is made a legally binding.

"Almost all the issues raised by the CSOs are the same issues that we are currently discussing before we sign the Epa," a trade officer in the ministry of Trade, Industry and Marketing, Mr Ally Senga, said.