EPA News Update - January 2011

On the 4th December at the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Kinshasa Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht celebrated EPAs once again as an instrument for development. He hypocritically emphasised that "EPAs are designed to promote regional integration" while at the same time the Commission has always insisted that regional levies, like those applied by ECOWAS or by CEMAC, have to be removed. The regional levy is a vital source of income for these regional institutions to continue existing.


De Gucht also insisted on the importance of including services in the EPAs, in spite of the reluctance of African governments and of a recent World Bank study, showing that EPAs in services are not in the interest of Africa[1]. Only as recently as November this year the ACP Council of Ministers had complained about the Commission's insistence on including services and other trade related measures into EPAs, although this is not required to make them WTO compatible. The Council of Ministers also lamented that "EC negotiators have continued to exert severe pressure to ACP States to sign up to agreements that do not fully reflect their concerns" and that the negotiations had not taken into account the asymmetries in the level of development. Furthermore the Council expressed the fear that "rules on intellectual property could undermine access to medicines and technology in ACP States".


Overall, the impression is that the European Commission will push hard to convince African governments to sign EPAs by the end of 2011 and what will happen afterwards is not easy to predict.


East Africa - EAC


EPA negotiations between the EU and the EAC countries were meant to be concluded by the end of November, but the deadline was missed. The negotiations were stalled over the last months, because the EAC countries lacked the necessary funds to hold meetings to prepare their negotiating position. Early December these funds were made available and EAC countries drafted their roadmap for the negotiations, which are now ready to resume again. The roadmap foresees the conclusion of the negotiations within the next year.


In the meanwhile the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) called on the government to discontinue EPA negotiations as EPAs would deepen dependency on Europe and to focus on deepening African regional integration instead. KHRC expressed the fear that EPAs would entrench poverty and destroy the rural economy based on agriculture, thereby causing food insecurity.


Southern Africa - SADC


After having missed the December 2010 deadline the European Commission now looks for mid-2011 for the conclusion of the negotiations. The two sides had a series of negotiation rounds over the last months but several contentious issues remain unresolved, among them Rules of Origin, particularly for fishery products. South Africa continues to asks for a better market access in the agricultural sector and does not accept that it should be treated differently from the other African countries. The inclusion of issues like services, investments, government procurement and intellectual property rights, which the EU wants to include in the agreement but South Africa and Namibia do not want to be in, also still remains unresolved.


Thomas Lazzeri

[1] See also EPAs in Services no good for Africa, says World Bank at http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/352/articles/epas-in-services-no-good-for-africa-says-world-bank.html


Go back