Monday, 21 July 2008

Progress on ESA discussions over EPAs

Members of Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and the European Commission met last month to discuss "contentious issues" as the two trading blocs apparently inch closer to the conclusion of a comprehensive trade deal. The European Union (EU) and the African Caribbean and Pacific Countries are negotiating for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), in line with World Trade Organisation’s reciprocity rule. ESA and the EC met in Brussels last month where they discussed contentious issues such as Most Favoured Nation clause, Safeguards and Export Taxes. There were also discussions on Intellectual Property Rights, Competition, Sustainable Development, Investments and Government Procurement. Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Granting a member special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) has to be applied for all other WTO members. The EC is due to come back with a joint text on investments and Intellectual Property Rights detailing both parties’ interests. The EC and ESA agreed on joint texts on Sanitary and Phytosanitary services; Technical Barriers to Trade; and Trade Facilitation. The next meeting is due to take place in September. Most African countries were unable to conclude comprehensive EPAs and opted for interim agreements in order to avoid trade disruption that could result from failure to conclude WTO compatible arrangements by the deadline of 31 December, 2007. To date the EU has concluded EPA talks with the Caribbean bloc while in Africa it has concluded interim EPAs with regional blocs and individual member countries. (Source: The Standard)

For earlier Afro-IP postings on EPAS click here and here.

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