SADC/ESA urged to safeguard markets under EPAs

Zimbabwe’s Industry and International Trade permanent secretary, Christian Katsande, said this in a speech read on his behalf at a two day Regional Conference on SADC and ESA Experiences in the EPAs Negotiations with EU on Thursday.

He said as the EU interests in this round of negotiations centred on Market Access and Trade in Services, there was need to protect the region’s markets.

“As you craft our region’s positions in your National Development Trade Policy Forums, it is imperative that you work tirelessly to defend our market,” said Katsande, adding that an ideal EPA was one where losses were minimised and gains were maximised.

He implored the regional economic groupings to develop creative ways of defending the continent’s interests in Market Access and Trade in Services through progressive liberalisation of trade.

Katsande said a Free Trade Area with the EU would be established under which there would be duty free and quota free movement of goods and services hence the need for African businesses to gear up for competition.

He said the outcome on regional integration at the continental level would be highly dependent on the role of the African Union and urged SADC and ESA officials to put heads together to strategise accordingly.

“It is imperative that a continental organ harmonise the different EPA groupings on issues of common interests. The AU should then rise to the occasion as strategic coordinator to facilitate harmonisation and coordination in regional positions,” he said.

African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are negotiating for EPAs which are aimed at defining the future trade and economic relations between the EU and regional blocs such as ESA, when the Cotonou Agreement expires in 2007.

The Cotonou Agreement was signed in June 2000, replacing the various Lome Conventions, through which the ACP countries accessed EU markets for almost three decades.

EPAs negotiations started in September 2002 and are supposed to be concluded by end of 2007.

The negotiations came in the wake of complaints from non-ACP countries in 1994 that the preferential and non-reciprocal trade that existed between ACP and EU countries was not in accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Thereafter the WTO ruled the Lome Convention was in contravention of WTO rules citing the unfair advantage given to ACP countries. ‘ New Ziana.

September 2006
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