East African countries ready to resume talks with EU over trade deal

18:24, December 01, 2010      

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The East African Community (EAC) announced late Tuesday that it was ready to resume negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Commission (EC) and conclude the same within one year.

The EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) has also adopted a draft joint EAC- EC-EPA roadmap for the negotiations.

A statement from Kenya's EAC ministry said regional trade ministers directed the EAC Secretariat to convene an EPA Experts meeting in January 2011 to prepare a budget on the comprehensive EPA negotiations. "The Secretariat was further directed to develop strategies for moving forward the negotiations process and to provide a budget line for EPA negotiations," the EAC said in the statement.

The SCTIFI which was chaired by Burundian Trade Minister Madame Ancilla Ntakaburimvo also instructed the Partner States to commit negotiating teams and facilitate their respective teams' activities.

The meeting was also informed that the Secretariat had mobilized 3.4 million U. S. dollars from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to facilitate the Comprehensive EPA negotiations for the period ending June 2012.

The Secretariat indicated that the first disbursement from the funding will be made by December 2010.

The SIDA funding has four main inputs namely capacity building for defining Trade Negotiation Positions; Support to Negotiation Meetings and Sessions; Technical Support to the Secretariat; and, Sensitization and Public Awareness on EPAs.

Among the Ministers who signed the report of the Sectoral Council were Ntakaburimvo (Burundi), Chirau Ali Mwakwere (Kenya), Dr Cyril A. Chami (Tanzania) Eng. Gagawala Nelson Wambuzi (Uganda) and Ms Monique Nsanzabagwa (Rwanda).

The negotiations stalled in June this year when the Joint EAC- EC-EPA Ministerial Meeting failed to agree on the contentious issues that needed to be resolved to pave way for the signing of the Framework EPA (FEPA).

The latest development comes in the wake of the failure by the Joint EAC-EC-EPA Ministerial Meeting to reach an agreement on June 9, 2010 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The points of departure then were failures to agree on the FEPA provisions on the Most Favored Nation (MFN) treatment, bilateral and multilateral safeguards, and taxes on exports.

Following the June impasse, the Sectoral Council meeting of June 24 directed the Secretariat urgently mobilize funds for the EAC-EC-EPA negotiations and to ensure that they develop a Comprehensive Negotiations Roadmap to be shared with the EC.

The financial support from SIDA is a culmination of these efforts.

Source: Xinhua


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