NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – The East African Business Council (EABC) and TradeCom Facility have made an agreement to strengthen the role of the East African private sector in EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations.
Under the partnership, EABC will run a programme that will improve private sector awareness of the EAC-EU EPA negotiations and also strengthen its participation in trade policy formulation. TradeCom is an African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group Programme financed by the European Development Fund .
“We welcome this cooperation as it will further strengthen our capacity to engage the private sector on EPA negotiation issues,” Charles Mbogori, the Executive Director of EABC, said. “The development of a health private sector in East Africa cannot be achieved if we do not maximis the benefits from EPA negotiations.”
The EU has been negotiating EPA with ACP countries since September 2002 with the aim of replacing non-reciprocal trade preferences granted under the Cotonou Agreement. EPAs are structured to introduce reciprocity to trade arrangement between EU and developing nations as per World Trade Organisation requirements.
While current EAC-EPA negotiations are supposed to be concluded by July 31, 2009, a number of outstanding issues that include rules of origin, most favoured nations clause, agriculture, trade in services, and sustainable development are yet to be concluded.
However, the Interim Framework on Economic Partnership Agreement (FEPA) signed in November 2007 by EAC and European Commission (EC) contains a clause that provides areas for future negotiations.
The EC market access offer, under FEPA, consists of duty free and quota free access to imports from the EAC Partner States except for rice and sugar for which a transitional arrangement has been put in place. On the other hand, the EAC market access offer to the EU consists of 82 per cent liberalization of imports from the EU over a twenty five-year transition period.
The TradeCom Facility programme therefore looks to build on the gains made at current negotiations and also set stage for future negotiations.
“EABC will increasingly play an instrumental role in private sector awareness, and in developing position papers and policy briefs that will feed into EPA negotiations,” Mr Mbogori said. “The private sector cannot play a meaningful role in trade negotiations without adequate skills on the technical aspects of the negotiations.”
The programme will therefore establish constructive public private sector dialogue that will inform government officials on the needs of the private sector. It will also build on the successes already registered by EPA trade in services programme supported by International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP).