Comesa Intensifying Talks With EC On EPA Rules of Origin
26 June 2007
Lusaka - With six months remaining for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says it has intensified discussions with the European Commission (EC) on the rules of origin.
COMESA Deputy Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said on Monday the technical teams of the eastern and southern African countries and the EC kicked off talks on the rules of origin during a meeting last week in Brussels.
The rules of origin under the EPA in their current states did not favour the ACP countries, he said.
The EC used rules of origin to ensure ACP producers benefited from access to EC markets so that these countries did not simply become a transit channel for exports from third countries without benefiting local industry.
Mr Ngwenya, however, stated that ACP should not delay the negotiations with the EC so that the deadline was not missed.
ACP countries should isolate issues which are being addressed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), such as the trade in services and government procurement.
He said there was a need for ACP countries not only to preserve the current market access, but to seek ways on how to improve on it.
Recently, the head of Zambia’s Permanent Mission to the WTO, Love Mtesa, said trade negotiators had made a recommendation in Geneva that ACP countries should not sign the EPA before the WTO negotiations were concluded.
Ms Mtesa said it would not be proper for countries to sign the EPA while negotiations were still going on in the WTO as some of the issues that are being presented in the EPA were also covered in the WTO negotiations.
The EPA are the trade and development agreements that the European Union (EU) is currently negotiating in parallel with six ACP regions, Caribbean, West Africa, East and Southern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and the Pacific.
They will replace the trade chapters of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP countries and ACP countries are being called upon to speed up and intensify negotiations so as to meet the December 2007 deadline.
In April this year, the EU proposed to remove all remaining quota and tariff limitations on access to the EU market for all ACP regions as part of the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations.
In May this year, Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States, Sir John Rumet Kaputin held "fruitful" discussions aimed at improving the lives of the people in those states.
Dr Dlamini Zuma and Sir Kaputin discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest and common challenges.
These included the economic partnership negotiations currently taking place between the ACP and the EU, issues of development and further cooperation between South Africa and the ACP.
Dr Dlamini Zuma and Sir Kaputin expressed the aim to integrate the existing economic partnership agreement South Africa had with the EU into one encompassing agreement for the mutual benefit of all ACP member states.
Its main objectives include obtaining sustainable development of its member states and their gradual integration into the global economy, which entails prioritising poverty reduction and establishing a new, fairer, and more equitable world order. - BuaNews-NNN