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CTPD urges govt to halt EPAs talks

The Post, Zambia

CTPD urges govt to halt EPAs talks

By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe

26 April 2010

The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has said the government should halt further negotiations over the Economic Partnership (EPAs) with Europe.

Recently, commerce minister Felix Mutati led a team of four of the seven Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) countries that shelved plans to initialise EPAs agreements to a meeting with European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Karel De Gught to help salvage negotiations which stalled following the vow by Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika that the disputed trade negotiations will be signed “over his dead body.”

Some analysts contend that the continent has spent more time opposing the EPAs at the expense of preparing their local industries for the eventual free trade agreement with Europe.

In an interview, CTPD executive director Saviour Mwambwa said the government should halt further negotiations or defer the negotiations until the local industries and interests were pushed to a level they could participate in the EPAs competitively.

Mwambwa said CTPD believed that EU trade policies through EPAs should not remove the right of the Zambian government to strategically deploy measures to safeguard its internal interests.

“It is for this reasons that we think that Zambia should halt further negotiations or at least put a moratorium until such a time as our own internal as well regional processes have been strengthened to assure maximum benefits in any trade liberalisation with powerful blocks like the EC European Commission,” Mwambwa said.

Mwambwa said although EC was more powerful than African countries to allow the continent influence the direction and time frame of EPAs negotiations, Zambia should use the clauses of the process being a negotiated settlement to protect the country’s interest.

Mwambwa said EC was using the EPAs to crowd out other regions from Africa’s natural resources and also counter Chinese influence on the continent.

“EPAs will restrict the flexibility of the continent to deal with any country and region of its choice,” said Mwambwa. “Zambia should be given the flexibility and freedom to trade with whoever it wants…we also have the South to South trade. What’s going to happen to it?”