The Standard (Nairobi) | 11 May 2007
Comesa signs free trade pact with EU
By Tom Mogusu
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has signed an agreement that gives member States uninterrupted European Union market access.
The new pact, which covers 25 years will become effective in January next year and is aimed at addressing trade disparities between Europe and Comesa countries.
"We are making progress and already have agreed on development, trade-related issues, agriculture and fisheries," the Comesa secretary-general, Mr Erastus Mwencha said.
"We are keen on development and trade and as such, we do not agree with the non governmental organisations which claim we lack capacity to negotiate with Europe."
Mwencha explained that under the agreement, all products will be allowed into the EU countries with the exception of rice and sugar, which are being handled under a separate ACP/EU protocol that allows different quotas for different countries, including Kenya.
He explained that the agreement opens the EU market to African products under duty free-quota arrangements over the next 25 years.
He said after the lapse of this period, the pact’s performance would be reviewed to assess how the two partners have benefited.
Mwencha explained that Comesa was well equipped to handle the negotiations with Europe, which is the biggest market for countries within the trading block.
The pact would form part of the agenda over the next two weeks when Comesa will be holding its policy organs meetings in Nairobi.
The meetings will culminate with the Presidents and Heads of State summit.
The meeting will also discuss the creation of the Customs Union and whether the road map agreed among the countries was still being followed to the the Economic Partnership Agreement, and the Common African Agriculture Development Programme.