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Be flexible on EPAs - Makuza

The New Times, Rwanda

Be Flexible On EPAs - Makuza

By Edwin Musoni

30 November 2010

Tripoli — Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, has urged the European Commission to accelerate the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and come up with a conclusion as soon as possible.

The Premier, made the call during the 2010 Africa-European Union Summit, that kicked off yesterday in Tripoli.

"African countries have been involved in the negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Commission for almost a decade," Makuza said.

"These negotiations have borne great cost in terms of time and resources to both the African countries and the European Commission."

The Prime Minister pointed out that despite the importance of the EPAs and the commitment of African countries, no African country has been able to conclude and sign a comprehensive EPA with the European Commission.

"The problem lies in the failure to resolve some of the contentious issues in the EPA negotiations, including development dimension, definition of ’substantially all trade and transitional period thresholds’, export taxes, quantitative restrictions, increase on tariffs, MFN Clause, and Non Execution Clause," the Premier told the Summit.

He pointed out that the intervention at the highest political level in Africa and Europe would be critical, but went on to urge Europe to be more flexible and not use the EPAs as political tools.

"We, the African leaders, wish to urge the European Commission to show flexibility in reaching an agreement with the African negotiators on some of the contentious EPA issues," Makuza said.

He added: "these EPA are strictly trade oriented and should not be used in any case as political instruments, otherwise this is inacceptable and our partnership should be guided with mutual respect and dignity."

The third Africa-EU Summit has been organised to create an opportunity for African leaders to review cooperation with the European Union, a key development partner.

The summit is also expected to be an ideal platform on which leaders of the continent meet to seek ways of reinforcing cooperation ties with Europe.

Under the overarching theme of "Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation", representative and Heads of States and Governments will address key issues, like peace and security, climate change, regional integration and private sector development, infrastructure and energy, agriculture and food security, migration.

The summit is set to demand a major shift in the European Union’s approach to ongoing negotiations over a new trade pact, in which the EU is demanding a greater access to African markets in exchange for investments.

Over 80 representatives from African and European countries are attending the summit that is expected to adopt the 2011/2013 action plan and the "Tripoli Declaration"

The first Africa/Europe Summit was held in 2000, in Egypt, the second one took place in 2007, in Lisbon, Portugal.