logo logo

East Africa: African states warn EU on trade talks

The East African Standard (Nairobi) | September 26, 2006

East Africa: African States Warn EU On Trade Talks

Trade talks between European Union and Eastern and Southern Africa countries are set to be stormy as ESA countries warned the EU against reneging on its earlier promises.

African states want the talks to incorporate development. Mr Erastus Mwencha, secretary general of Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, argued that development issues must form the cornerstone of a new Economic Partnership Agreement expected by the end of 2007.

He said instead of treating ESA development as a priority, the EU is focussing on the trade component of the Cotonou Agreement. The EU claims the agreement caters for development in ESA countries through the Economic Development Fund.

"The negotiating meeting we had with the EC in Mauritius in July 2006 had addressed this matter, and we understood that our two parties had reached a common understanding," Mwencha said.

"It is, therefore, disappointing that the EC is once again resorting to its ’Development Cluster’ agreements. We have reflected this view before, and to use the EC’s own words, it is not acceptable."

Mwencha was opening a meeting of over 100 ESA trade experts at a Mombasa hotel to deliberate on a draft EPA text. The text is being prepared for a major meeting with EU trade experts on tomorrow.

Mwencha expressed concern that many sticky issues had not been resolved one year to the conclusion of an EPA. He cautioned that ESA states will only sign an EPA that is "comprehensively pro-development and in our interest".

He reminded the experts that the main reason why ESA was negotiating with EU was to boost development strategies and not to allow a treaty that would damage Africa’s shaky economies.

Key trade issues under discussion in Mombasa include development, fisheries, market access, agriculture and trade-related issues.

Kenya’s team at Wednesday’s talks include Ambassador to the EU, Mr Marx Kahenda, Deputy Director External Trade, Mr Peter Mwaniki and Kenya-European Union Post Lome Trade Negotiations consultant, Mr Bernard Kagira.