Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zambia assesses sectors to open under EPAs

BY NANCY MWAPE - Zambia Daily Mail

ZAMBIA is carrying out a sector assessment to identify services that can be opened under the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) and those that need protection.

About ten sectors have been identified that includes tourism, health, financial services, accountancy, business professional and construction.

Commerce, Trade and Industry foreign trade director Peggy Mlewa said Government is looking at services that can be opened and those that need protection from competition.

“We have not yet finalised on these products….It’s important to realise that Europe is more advanced than us. We have an infant industry that needs to be protected,” she said.

Mrs Mlewa said the EPAs negotiations that started in 2004 are a development agreement that should smoothen the gradual integration of African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries into the world economy.

EPAs are a trade and co-operation agreement being negotiated between the ACP countries and the EU to replace the Cotonou Agreement and make the agreement World Trade Organisation (WTO)- compliant.

She said Zambia is dealing with the EPAs development component as part of the overall strategy on aid-for-trade under the trade expansion working group.

She said while Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe signed the interim EPAs in 2009, Zambia and other nations like Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Sudan have not signed.

Mrs Mlewa said Zambia decided not to sign the initial EPAs as the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) chair and is working towards concluding the negotiations as a regional block.

She said EPAs should be looked at as an instrument for development, regional integration and need to be WTO-compliant.

She said clusters being negotiated include the development assistance, market access and agriculture, trade in services, fisheries and trade-related issues such as competition.

She cited export taxes, agriculture safeguards, Most Favoured Nation clause and special and differential treatment for Least Developed Countries as most contentious issues under discussion.

Earlier, CUTs executive board member Love Mtesa commended Zambia for being selected as the chair for LDCs at the WTO.

Mr Mtesa said the appointment of Zambia as chair for LDCs is good for the profile of the country and foreign direct investment attraction into the nation.
He, however, said there was need to overcome supply capacity constraints such as infrastructure for the country to be competitive.

“To take full advantage of any gains in excess, domestic action is necessary to improve farmers’ linkages to markets. Farmers should be helped to manage farming as a business and base production decisions on market information and trends,” he said.