IISD | 11 August 2020
EU, African countries advance negotiations on economic partnership
The EU and five Eastern and Southern African countries – Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe – implementing the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) have advanced negotiations on issues relating to technical barriers to trade, customs and trade facilitation, and sanitary and phytosanitary issues, and towards better understanding of both sides’ proposals on rules of origin.
The second negotiating round for the deepening of the interim Economic Partnership Agreement was held virtually, from 6-8 July 2020, following the launch of the negotiations on 2 October 2019 in Mauritius.
The report on the meeting notes that the parties confirmed their commitment “to move forward in these negotiations despite the difficult situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the technical constraints of a virtual meeting.” On customs and trade facilitation, the parties “made further progress towards an ambitious Customs and Trade Facilitation Chapter,” aiming to provide “a high degree of trade facilitation to their traders, while enhancing their cooperation in customs matters.”
On technical barriers to trade, the parties made “good progress” on technical regulations, conformity assessment, and market surveillance. The report on the meeting indicates that the parties will discuss cooperation and technical assistance “in the wider context of development cooperation.”
On sanitary and phytosanitary issues, the parties made progress “with an agreement in principle on pre-listing and an agreement on the recognition of regionalization (zoning) with a view to a more sustainable trade in food products.” The parties committed to consider a provision for a framework on equivalence, and agreed on the “utmost importance” of cooperation and technical assistance.
On rules of origin, the EU presented its proposal for origin procedures, comprising self-certification, verification and administrative cooperation, and denial of preferential tariff treatment. Following discussion of the general provisions, the parties identified convergent and divergent positions, and agreed to continue work on a joint working document.
The five Eastern and Southern African countries have requested that the next negotiating round be held virtually for three days in the last week of November 2020 to discuss two new topics – services and investment, and trade and sustainable development – and to continue discussions of the first round on agriculture. [Report on the Second Round of Negotiations between the EU and Five Eastern and Southern African Countries for the Deepening of the Currently Implemented Economic Partnership Agreement] [EU News Article]