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Activists submit recommendations on EPA

Tanzania Daily News

Activists Submit Recommendations On EPA

By Pius Rugonzibwa

18 January 2012

Tanzania Ecumenical Dialogue Group (TEDG) has presented to the government a statement calling for Tanzania not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Europe until contentious issues in its framework are sorted out.

Addressing a press conference in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, the TEDG Coordinator, Ms Jesca Mkuchu, said the statement had called for Tanzania to strictly consider the interests of its citizens including making sure the contents in the agreement are clearly known to the majority Tanzanians first.

The statement is a result of the meeting held late last year and attended by religious leaders, Civil Society Organisations and media which deliberated on the trend, status and implications of the EPA between the East Africa Community and the EU.

"We commend the government’s efforts for taking on board the interests of the Tanzanian people in EPAs negotiations so far.

"However, we are concerned that the EPAs process has been carried out without involving the Tanzanian people at large," she said as she read the statement.

"Any kind of economic policy, including international economic policies, should first and foremost move towards sustainable development and equitable growth, which benefits the people different to what EPA is targeting, the statement reads further.

TEDG, an ecumenical body that works under the auspices of the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), submitted the statement to the President’s Office, as well as to the ministries taking part in EPAs talks.

According to the statement, there is also need for the government to introduce transparency in the whole process.

While the EAC countries face a massive challenge in tackling hunger and under-nutrition, their required commitments under Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) will make this even more difficult, said Ms Mkuchu.

The restrictions imposed on EAC block to address import surges that could undermine local food production as well as limitations on the freedom of the bloc to use tariff policy and market regulation are some of the impediments TEDG is trying to address.

According to the statement, EAC- EPAs prohibits the use of export restrictions on export taxes and this limits the government’s ability to avoid a critical shortage of foodstuffs or address environmental concerns.

"In the face of the above facts, we call upon the Tanzanian government and EAC member states not to sign EPA unless development cooperation becomes an integral part of the Agreement, and additional funds are provided to address supply constraints," concluded the statement.

The Principal Trade Officer in the Ministry of Industries and Trade, Mr Boniface Michael, told the ’Daily News’ late last year that the tug-of-war between Europe and the EAC bloc has already delayed the signing of EPAs from December last year to possibly July this year.

Had it been that the negotiations had completely failed, he said, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, recognised as Least Developing Countries (LDC), would resume other agreements like Everything But Arms (EBA) with Europe while Kenya would go on with Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), despite their shortcomings.