EPA News Update - December 2011

Ever since the European Commission issued its January 2014 deadline[1], EPA negotiations have gained speed again. With the renewal of the talks, the controversies surrounding EPAs have begun anew. The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Erastus Jarnalese Onkundi Mwencha, argued that the structure of the EPA is not to Africa’s advantage. “Our advantage is regional integration. Can EPA help us to integrate our markets? If anything, it will stall us. I don’t think EPA is a priority for Africa” he said. During the 22nd session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in November President-in-Office of the ACP Council of Ministers Oryem Henry Okello declared that the EU's deadline looks like arm-twisting ACP Governments to conclude negotiations while the fundamental disagreements are yet to be resolved.


West Africa (ECOWAS)


Technical negotiators from the EU and West Africa met in Accra from 15-18 November. The parties exchanged views on the revised market offer submitted by West Africa (70 % liberalisation schedule over a transitory period of 25 years). Unresolved issues in the negotiations include, inter alia, the question of the ‘additionality’ of development funding (now deferred to the political level), the definition of ‘third countries’ affected by the most favoured nation clause, the non execution clause, the community levy funding ECOWAS, subsidies and domestic support. James Victor Gbeho, the president of the Commission of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) warned that if no agreement on a regional EPA was found soon, the region risked falling victim to the divide and rule tactics of the EU. In fact Ghana has already signaled that it would have to go it alone and ratify its interim EPA if no agreement on a regional EPA were found.


Central Africa (CEMAC)


There is again some life in the negotiations between Central Africa and the EU. Technical negotiation rounds were held this autumn, after more than two years without negotiations. However, the technical level negotiations scheduled on 14-18 November in Brussels had to be postponed to February 2012, indicating that the direction of the negotiations with the region remains unclear and that no agreement can be expected in the near future.


Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA)


The European Commission acknowledged that it was currently continuing the EPA negotiations only with those four countries (Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles, Zimbabwe) that have signed the interim EPA. The Commission's attempts to convince Malawi and Zambia to return to the negotiation table have so far born no fruit. The Commission itself doubts that Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea will ever become interested in the EPA process as they seem quite happy continuing to rely on the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme granting duty free access to the European market to least developed countries (LDCs). The negotiations with the remaining four countries now continue towards the conclusion of a full EPA. In particular Mauritius and Seychelles seem interested in finding an agreement with the EU that includes services and investments.


Eastern African Community (EAC)

The negotiations between the two sides continue. Progress was made, notably on development cooperation. On agriculture, the controversial issues of export subsidies and EU domestic support continue to cause disagreement. However, the European Commission affirmed that the differences are small and expressed its conviction that an agreement can soon be found.


Southern Africa (SADC)


Progress has been made on various provisions of the EPA text, although the question of market access, notably when it comes to the specific coverage of agricultural products, remains contentious. Also the inclusion of services remains unclear as some countries want it, whereas Namibia and South Africa so far have always remained opposed to it.


Thomas Lazzeri

[1] For more information on the deadline please see EPA News Update - October 2011 at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/351/articles/epa-news-update-october-2011.html and EU wants to force ACP countries to sign EPAs at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/352/articles/european-commission-wants-to-force-acp-countries-to-sign-epas.html

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