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COMESA Members And EU Discuss EPAs

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

29 March 2012

A delegation of MEPs from the European Parliament has recently held a consultative meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, with the Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) group of countries to discuss their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union (EU).

The delegation from the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, which is responsible for formulating trade policy in the EU, and was headed by Vital Moreira, met ESA’s Chair, the Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Robert Sichinga, not only to exchange views on how the EPA negotiations were progressing, but also to agree ways of further improving the process.

“We remain strongly committed to the EPA process, and it is our belief that a development-friendly EPA can and should contribute to the sustainable development of our economies. It can help create jobs and business opportunities, and may contribute to our integration into the world economy,” Sichinga confirmed.

However, Sichinga also highlighted key issues which are keeping some ESA countries from signing the EPA, including the absence of a binding commitment on development (in particular the provision of adequate resources to allow ESA countries build productive capacity); the insistence by the EU to limit ESA’s policy space to use export taxes for industrialization; and the issue of how much and when to liberalize trade tariffs.

He added that ESA member states’ expectations of the EPA are high. The African group wants to help increase trade, promote diversification, attract EU investment and encourage technology transfer.

“We need to develop a globally competitive, green economy, that is sustainable, and one that will help us to take our economies to a higher level of sophistication. This will help us achieve the quantum leap we all aim for. We have to make this happen; and we look to the EPA to pave the way by providing the missing link between trade and development.”

Moreira urged ESA to engage in dialogue with the negotiating team from the EU so that all outstanding issues regarding the EPAs are resolved as soon as possible.

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