The negotiations with the EAC countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi) for an interim EPA are seemingly close to a conclusion and the signing could take place soon. Of the five EAC countries Kenya is the only one not classified as Least Developed Country (LDC) and therefore not benefiting from free access to the European market through the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme. Kenya is therefore most interested in signing the EPA as it fears to lose its access to the European market. The other EAC countries have no direct interest in signing the EPA. However, not signing it whilst Kenya does, would pose a severe threat to the EAC Customs Union and the collapse of the EAC Customs Union would deprive these countries of an important source of revenue.

The text of the interim EPA contains many of the worrisome aspects already contained in other interim EPAs such as very weak measures to protect infant industry against the inflow of European goods and the explicitly stated objectives of continuing the negotiations in order to sign a full EPA, which also contains provisions on services, government procurement and intellectual property rights. However, there are also good news: the article on the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause contains a paragraph (art. 16, para. 4), which states explicitly that any future trade agreement of EAC with other ACP countries is exempted from then MFN clause. This paragraph was not included for example in the EPA with SADC and one can only hope that it will be included in other future EPAs.



Also in this case negotiations are seemingly close to conclusion, translation issues which had caused a slowdown of the process seem to be solved and the interim EPA could soon be signed.


CEMAC (Central Africa)
The negotiations with CEMAC are effectively stalled as the European Commission itself has admitted. According to the Commission CEMAC is internally divided and it is not clear yet if the negotiations will go on with the region as a whole or with single countries. Cameroon is the only CEMAC country having initialed and signed an interim EPA. The LDCs of the region (Chad, Sao Tome e Principe, Central African republic, Equatorial Guinea) benefit from the EBA scheme. Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon fell back to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme[1] and pay higher taxes on exports to the EU, but both benefit from having oil resources.



The unsolved issues mentioned in the last EPA update (June 2009) still remain unsolved. The European Commission still insists on signing the EPA in October 2009, but Commission officials admit in private that it might not be feasible meeting this deadline, given the amount of unsolved issues. The Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA) warned against a signing of the EPA under the current conditions, as it is unfavorable to the West African nations.



The interim EPA was signed by Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, while South Africa, Angola and Namibia refused to do so. South Africa already benefits from a bilateral trade agreement with the EU and Angola benefits from EBA, which leaves Namibia in the most vulnerable position. So far Namibia is still receiving free access to the European market, however the Commission signaled clearly that should there be complains from other nations regarding Namibia's status this free access would be taken away and Namibia would have to rely on the GSP scheme. In the meanwhile Namibia is accusing the Commission of stubbornness on the outstanding contentious issues, which convinced the country not to sign the interim EPA, whereas the Commission states that it has been clear right from the outset that these issues would be only discussed during the negotiations for a full EPA and that Namibia suddenly reversed its position during the negotiations. In the meanwhile the future of the South African Customs Union (SACU, see also the June 2009 EPA update) remains unclear. Meetings have taken place to find a solution, but none has been found thus far.



European Parliament

The new International Trade (INTA) and the Development (DEVE) Committees of the European Parliament have been constituted. The new chairman of INTA is the Portuguese socialist Vital Moreira (the complete list of the members of INTA can be found following this link http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/ committees/search.do?committee=2859&language=EN). The French Green Eva Joly is the new chairwoman of DEVE (the complete list of the members of DEVE can be found following this link http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/committees/search.do? committee=2857&language=EN). The committees will start their regular activity in September.


Thomas Lazzeri


[1] The EU's Generalised System of Preferences is a trade arrangement through which the EU provides preferential access to the EU market to developing countries and territories, in the form of reduced tariffs for their goods when entering the EU market. There is no expectation or requirement that this access be reciprocated. It has however to be noted that this represents an increase of tariffs for ACP countries, which hitherto benefited from duty free access to the EU market thanks to the Lomé Convention.

Go back