Statement to the COMESA Summit on the ESA-EC Economic Partnership Agreements Negotiations
Published on Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute SEATINI, June 01, 2009.
Monday 1 June 2009:
- 1. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is holding its Policy Organs meetings and the 13th Summit of Heads of State and Government in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from the 28th May to 8th June 2009 under the theme Consolidating Regional Economic Integration through Value Addition, Trade and Food Security.2.
- 2. From the 2nd – 4th June 2009 the Council of Ministers will be meeting to deliberate on a number of issues affecting the COMESA region, including the current negotiations with the European Union (officially known as the European Community) on concluding Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
We recall that:
- 3. The Eastern and Southern Africa Group (ESA) and the European Community (EC) senior officials met in Brussels on 28 April 2009 under the co-chairmanship of H.E Ambassadors S Gunessee and N. Wahab on ESA side as well as P. Thompson, Director, DG Trade on EC side. In their conclusions on the Interim EPAs initialled towards the end of 2007, the officials noted that:
- On signature of interim EPA, EC confirmed that provided that an agreement is reached on translation, the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) could be ready for signature around mid-May 2009. ESA confirmed its decision to host the signature in Mauritius and informed that the issue of the date of signature will be considered at the next ESA Council scheduled for the 4th June 2009 in Victoria Falls back to back with COMESA Summit with a view to agreeing on a mutually convenient date as well as its arrangement for the signing ceremony.
We are concerned that:
- 4. The ESA countries (as represented by their officials) have confirmed their decision to host the signature of the interim EPAs and that they are already considering discussing the dates of such a ceremony when the outstanding and contentious issues in the interim EPAs have not been addressed and resolved.
- 5. The contentious issues arising from the interim EPAs include, inter alia, involve far reaching commitments on tariffs reductions the freezing of export taxes that ESA countries have been using, the requirement that ESA countries should not increase duties on products from the EU beyond what they have been applying (standstill clause), liberalising “substantially all trade”, bilateral safeguards (for infant industry protection)-all these issues are still under negotiations. We take the precautionary principle and reiterate that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
- 6. The EC has insisted that the first priority should be the signature of the interim EPA. The EU main interest is in market access which they may achieve in interim EPAs. This limits the scope of focussing on the real issues of interest to ESA countries that need attention before the signature. ESA countries should resist the pressure of rushing to sign the interim EPA when it is clear they will be mortgaging national and public assets to the EC.
We urge ESA countries to recognise that: … (full text with Points 7 to 16).