Eritrea in Negotiations to Join Economic Partnership Agreement with EU
5 September 2009
Eritrea is involved in ongoing negotiations to enter the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. The comprehensive trade partnership would cover issues like services, investment, agriculture, technical standards, trade facilitation and trade related rules.
The overall aim of EPA) is to establish an Economic Partnership agreement between the EU region and the Eastern and Southern Africa regional grouping (ESA).
The first four ESA member countries Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar have already signed an EPA interim treaty last week. Under the deal these countries will have immediate and full access to EU markets (with transition periods for rice and sugar), together with improved rules of origin.
ESA countries are expected to open their markets gradually over the next 15 years, with a number of important exceptions reflecting their development needs. The East African countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan), as well as Malawi are also involved in ongoing negotiations for the more comprehensive regional agreement and are expected to join the agreement at a later stage.
Eritrea has already duty free access to the EU under the European Union “Everything But Arms” (EBA) trade arrangement for least developed countries. Therefore, Eritrea does not need to submit a market access offer to sign the agreement and benefit from its development cooperation and fisheries provisions while negotiations to join the more comprehensive deal at a later stage continue.
Mandatory issues such as protection for local growing industries and export duties are on ongoing discussions amongst the Southern African regional groups and the EU to be agreed upon without postponement. It could be a window opportunity for Eritrea to engage in a business deal without the need to open to international markets. Eritrea needs to be flexible in opening up its market at a later stage.
Nevertheless, this requires the recognition of a strong market economy in areas where it can be competent at a global level. Perhaps it could possibly compete in the mining sector and sea-food markets. However, it might need a careful assessment in the agreement in order to avoid unpleasant surprises afterwards.