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EU faults Mkapa on Epa

The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) | 6 April 2010

TRADE NEGOTIATIONS: EU faults Mkapa on Epa

By The Citizen Reporter

The European Union (EU) has defended the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) saying the arrangement does not aim at re-introducing colonialism in Africa.

Instead, the EU delegation in the country said that to the contrary, the arrangement is meant to boost Africa’s economy.

This was in response to this paper queries following the recent remarks by former President Benjamin Mkapa in Nairobi, warning east African states to be wary of EPA as it was another Europe form of colonising the continent.

Speaking at the Pan African media conference organised by Nation Media group two weeks ago, President Mkapa warned that EPA was meant to stifle Africa’s growth.

He described EPA, which is being championed by the EU, could be another “scramble for Africa”, and was likely to weaken the regional bloc economically.

But European Commission told this paper that EPA is concerned with promoting the regional integration process and notably supporting measures taken by regional groupings themselves to open up trade with their neighbours and the wider international community.

“While they may have been born out of necessity – driven by the need for any preferential measures given by the EU to be WTO compatible – they are also an integral part of the comprehensive partnership between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries,” said EC when reacting to The Citizen queries.

EU noted that given the nature the negotiations between Europe and Africa on EPA have been conducted, the agreement provides predictability and stability to all business operators – local and foreign.

“The often made allegations that EAC markets would be flooded with EU products from day one of implementation of the Agreement are simply untrue,” said EU noting that the carefully drafted EAC list of exclusions continues to provide tariff protection to sensitive areas of the EAC economies.

Such sections have been listed as agricultural products and consumer goods, which will be liberalised over a long period of time, according to EU.

According to European countries, this arreangement “can yield major benefits to both EAC producers as well as consumers.”

While producers are projected to have access to cheaper and better quality inputs into the production processes in the EAC, the arrangement could be turned into a competitive advantage in comparison with other regions and can become an incentive for increased productive inward investment into EAC countries.

From a consumer point of view, EU says, EAC citizens will have access to a greater variety of goods, at a lower cost while at the same time, the safeguard clauses and the list of exclusions, together with the long transition period for liberalisation of a number of final products on the EAC side will ensure that Tanzanian producers of agricultural and other sensitive products will not be facing additional competition from EU producers.

But a document prepared by South Centre, formerly known as South South Commission, availed to this paper by Mr Mkapa who is its Board Chairman, says EPAs provide the wrong development model for Africa, and will jeopardize African countries’ development and regional integration prospects, rather than support them.

The document, which this paper been serialising, show instance that until now, rapid tariff cuts in sub Saharan Africa since the 1980s resulted in deindustrialisation.

The Centre says EPA discourages African countries from having an appropriate trade policy to support increasing production capacities both in agriculture and industry.

“No country has developed as a result of drastically lowering their tariffs during their development process. All developed and advanced developing countries have progressed based on the strategic use of their tariffs, combined with policies that have supported the development of their industrial and also agricultural sectors,” notes the document.

Mr Mkapa’s warning was also supported b y the ;private private sector and civil society who said EA countries should take his advise seriously.

“Mr Mkapa’s remarks have come as a consolation to us... this is what we have been advocating for the past five years,” a member of the Tanzania Civil Society Trade Coalition (TCSTC), Mr Abubakar Mohammed Ali, told The Citizen.

“In principle, the WTO has virtually nothing to offer to poor nations... Mr Mkapa is experienced and well educated. He is conversant with macro and microeconomics, and understands EPAs better than many of us do. We will be making a serious mistake if we take his advice lightly,” said Mr Moses Kulaba, the executive secretary of Agenda Participation 2000.

The commitment to negotiate EPA between the EU and a number of regional configurations determined by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group members themselves dates back to June 2000.

But a common position on EPAs adopted by members of the private sector indicates that the sector is still sceptical about the negotiations, and frustrated by their inability to access the EU market due to tough sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules.

Their concerns are based on the fact that EAC businesses usually find it hard to enter the EU markets due to their level of compliance with SPS and technical measures set by the EU and retailers in EU member countries.

 source: The Citizen