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Ministry clears stand on EPAs

The Daily Times, Malawi

Ministry clears stand on EPAs

By Henry Mchazime

19 November 2008

Ministry of Industry and Trade says it did not sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with European Union because it requested for capacity resources before committing to the paper.

Director of Trade Harrison Mandindi said this during a sensitisation workshop on EPAs conducted by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum)-Malawi on Monday.

Mandindi said if signed, the EPAs would have paved way for European goods ranging from food items to machinery and vehicles to enter Malawi without paying duty.

“As Malawi government, we did not sign the interim agreement because we are still negotiating with EU so that they accept our conditions, which include increasing our production and standards capacity,” said Mandindi.

He added that a total of 36 African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries signed the initial agreement but 41 did not because they were negotiating with EU on a country by country basis.

“There are several benefits from the EPAs like financial and technical assistance to enhance our supply side capacities plus trade related infrastructure but we stand to lose a lot of revenue and closure of local companies because their commodities are subsidised, which makes them very cheap,” said Mandindi.

He added that government’s position is to ensure that local products get market access to Europe coupled with trade related development assistance.

“We will only sign when all the outstanding issues of interest are addressed because Europe is one of Malawi’s trading and development partners,” said Mandindi.

In his remarks, Malawi Economic Justice Network Executive Director Andrew Kumbatira commended government for the stand and announced that Mandindi has been appointed EPA chief negotiator for Eastern and Southern Africa.