The conclusion of an economic partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations will lead to increased development in Africa and to southern African region in particular, a senior EU official said Lusak on Friday.
The new EU head of delegation to Zambia Derek Fee told journalists that though southern African nations have enjoyed duty and quota free trading arrangement with the EU, there was need for the agreement that would not only foster trade but also trigger development.
"Zambia and other countries have been enjoying duty and quota free trade when exporting to the EU but we believe that the economic partnership agreement will accelerate economic development," he said.
He said that the EU was trying to push the negotiations so that they are concluded by the end of next year.
According to the head of the EU, the economic partnership agreement will stimulate rapid and broad-based economic growth for the southern African countries.
While acknowledging the bilateral trading arrangements with individual countries in the region, the EU official said the economic partnership agreement was a better deal because they were looking at the broader picture of sustainable development.
"This agreement is trying to link trade and development and we believe that times are changing and what we need to do is to promote sustained growth and development," he said.
The 25-member EU and the 77 ACP countries began negotiations on the economic partnership agreement in September 2002 and the agreement is supposed to be ready by 2008.
However, countries in east and southern Africa are negotiating as a group in view of the regional integration process underway in the region.
The two regions have cooperated with each other since the signing of the Lome Convention in Togo in 1975. However, the two regions decided in 2000 that it was time for a major overhaul of their trade arrangements and began talks to put in place a new agreement which will place development firmly at the center of trade arrangements.