EAC Warned on EPAs
Joseph Olanyo (Busiweek)-- East African Community (EAC) states should not sign the interim Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) until pending issues are resolved, a trade analyst has said.
Jane Nalunga, the country director, Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), cites the standstill clause in the agreements, which states that tariffs should remain as they are and the most favoured nation (MFN) treatment, a reciprocal privilege awarded by one nation to another in international trade, as some of the issues EAC states should resolve before signing the agreement.
All interim EPA agreement shave a standstill clause, disallowing new customs duties to be applied or existing ones to be raised after entry into force of the agreement.The clause is said to be restrictive compared to the European Union’s (EU’s) deal and could prevent African countries from industrialising and increasing their domestic agricultural production. The MFN clause makes it mandatory that African countries offer to the EU what they offer to another major economy, a move analysts say, works against regional integration.
The EU wants that any trade preferences that are given to other countries should also be given to them. ‘This is very dangerous for us and unless we sort out these issues, there is not need to sign the EPA.’ Nalunga said. EPAs are reciprocal trade arrangements between the European Union (EU) and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. In November 2007, the EU and EAC member states initialised an interim, EPA, which is awaiting ratification.
Speaking at the launch of a report: ‘Ensuring the protection of agriculture and small scale farmers in the EPA negotiations; a case of a special safeguard mechanism’ at Arch Apartments Ntinda last week, Nalunga said, while agriculture is the backbone of many Africa’s economies, it has been weakened by the previous liberalisation and reforms undertaken by many African governments. ‘Protecting and promoting the agricultural sector and small scale farmers is imperative f Africa and the EAC region in particular are to embark on the road to sustainable development’ Nalunga said.
The study was launched by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda, a network of non governmental organisations in Uganda.
PELUM country coordinator Stella Grace Lutalo, said the study was undertaken to assess the impact of the EPAs on the agriculture sector and small scale farmers. Lutalo said it seeks to contribute to the ongoing EPA negotiations.
EPA negotiations started in 2002 and were slated to be concluded by 31 December 2007. They are supposed to replace the non-reciprocal trade arrangement between the two parties, which has existed since 1975 under the Lome Conventions. Debates and studies on the EPs indicate that the EPAs will have far reaching implications on the African Economies and on people’s livelihoods especially as they entail the further liberalisation of African economies.
‘Although agriculture is being negotiated as a stand alone cluster, the market access area has implications on agriculture since a number of products exported by the EAC region are agricultural, products,’ the report said.