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AU Ministers Call for EPA Trade Reviews

The Monitor, Kampala

AU Ministers Call for EPA Trade Reviews

9 April 2008

By Joseph Olanyo, Kampala

African Union (AU) trade and finance ministers want the recently initialled trade deals between the European Union (EU) and African countries to be re-negotiated in the context of a comprehensible full agreement saying it has contentious issues.

In their declaration at the end of a three-day trade meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, April 1-3, the Ministers said the definition of substantially all trade, transitional periods and export taxes, among others, should be reviewed to ensure an all inclusive comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that would safeguard development and regional integration efforts. Free circulation of goods and national treatment are others. The ministers are urging negotiators to ensure that the development dimension is comprehensively addressed in all sectors of the full deals.

"We reiterate the need for an urgent meeting at the highest political level between the leadership of Africa and of European Union as a follow-up of decisions and recommendations of the Africa-EU Summit of December 2007," the declaration, sent to Daily Monitor said.

The meeting, the ministers said, will be called with a view to aligning the objectives of the EU-Africa Lisbon Strategy on EPAs and resolve contentious issues that could adversely affect their partnership. EPAs are trade deals being negotiated between the EU and 76 poor countries - mostly former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (known as the ACP).

The deals are extremely important as they will lay the rules of trade between Europe and these countries for decades to come and affect the lives of millions of people. They are also highly controversial because it involves among other things full opening of markets, which the poor countries say they are not ready for. In November 2007, Uganda signed an interim EPA agreement with the EU under the East African Community (EAC) block.

The AU Ministers noted that while some countries have already initialled the interim agreement, the commitments in the interim agreement should not constitute an obligation or serve as a benchmark for the non-signatory members of the same negotiating group towards the conclusion of a complete, full and final EPA.