EPA update

5 September 2011

Central Africa to hold EPA consultations

In Central Africa, the regional consultations initially scheduled at ministerial level late July in Libreville have been cancelled. The next joint negotiating sessions are planned in Kinshasa in the second half of September 2011

West Africa-EC holding EPA negotiations

Technical and senior officials from West Africa and the European Commission (EC) met in Brussels from 25-28 July to discuss the way forward in EPA negotiations. It was an opportunity for the EU to present its response to the market access offer that was tabled by West Africa in Dakar. EC officials notably argued in favour of the liberalisation of certain inputs and intermediary products that are not produced in the region and which are currently on the exclusion list.

As expected, the question of the EPA Development Programme (EPADP) was also on the agenda, and in this respect, the EC made some new proposals regarding both the EU's financial commitments in support of the programme and the role of the EPA joint Council. These will be the basis for discussions at the next meeting. The controversial question of additionality of funds should however be tackled at the political level.

Discussions also focused on the MFN clause, the non-execution clause, the clause on EU customs union partners (Art 106.) as well as on the treatment of agricultural subsidies in the EPA on which the EU made a new proposal.

Senior officials' instructions on these questions should feed into the next technical level meeting, currently scheduled for 7-11 November in the region. This technical negotiating session should be preceded by a specific meeting of the sub-group on Rules of Origin, foreseen in October.

On 1 July, the World Bank issued its annual classification of the world's economies based on estimates of gross national income (GNI) per capita for the previous year. [1] The new middle-income countries this year include Zambia, which therefore graduates from its Least Developed Country status,. If this continues for three years, then this country will no longer be eligible for the EU's Everything but Arms trade preference scheme and may be more inclined to sign an EPA.

ESA-EU technical negotiators met

Progress was made in several areas in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region and EC technical level negotiations took place in Brussels from 28 June to 1 July.[2]

EPA texts were agreed on trade facilitation, safeguards and sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS), though further negotiations are necessary on agricultural safeguards and SPS cooperation and assistance. Further negotiation is also needed on technical barrier to trade notifications and competent authorities, provisions on competition policy and related technical assistance, and on ESA's request to eliminate EU agricultural export subsidies.

Negotiations on rules of origin will continue following ESA's request to maintain and extend the provisions for cumulation with ACP states and include other non-ACP neighbouring countries.

EPA texts on services were also agreed upon, but definitions of juridical persons and enhanced Mode 4 (movement of persons) are still to be negotiated.

ESA informed the EC the development matrix for submission to the EU will be updated by September. The EU's response to ESA's proposal on development benchmarks and their link to trade liberalisation commitments and other outstanding contentious issues will also be discussed by senior officials in September.

The two parties aim at concluding the regional comprehensive EPA by the end of this year.

No progress in EAC-EU EPA negotiations

TNI has received no information on the status of East African Community (EAC)-EC EPA negotiations. Press reports indicate that the lack of response from EAC negotiators is giving rise to EU concern. Ambassador Roberto Ridolfi, Head of the EU Delegation in Uganda, said that "strengthening EU-EAC legal and policy framework through EPAs should be in the interest and an absolute priority for EAC". [3] He claimed that EPA criticisms from civil society organisations are based on inadequate information and/or deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Bernard Rey, Head of the EU Delegation in Kenya, is also quoted as saying that "Kenya risks seeing tariffs imposed on a good number of exports to Europe including horticulture products if it does not sign the EPA."[4]

SADC-EC negotiators to meet in September

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group met during the first week of August to prepare the next negotiating session with the EC which should be held in September 2011. No further information is available as TNI goes to press.

Caribbean Community Secretary General appointed

Irwin LaRocque has been selected to serve as the seventh Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).[5] LaRocque has been the CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration since September 2005. Some press reports have interpreted this appointment as an indication that regional leaders prefer a bureaucratic to a political leader for running the regional organisation.

CARICOM Heads of Government met in Frigate Bay from 30 June - 4 July.[6] They stated the importance of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy in advancing the development of the region and mandated an Inter-Governmental Task Force to strengthen monitoring and enforcement provisions in order to secure compliance of regional integration commitments. Leaders also received an initial report and held discussions with the team of consultants on the ongoing review of the CARICOM Secretariat. They looked forward to further interaction with the team during their in-country consultations and to receiving their final report before the end of the year. The secretariat review is the first in a series of initiatives mandated by the Heads of Government towards improving governance arrangements within the Community.

In discussions with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Heads of Government expressed concern at the protracted delay in the disbursement of EC funds for already approved programmes and projects. They commended work carried out to date in drafting the Joint Caribbean-EU Strategy which would lay the groundwork for a more mature relationship encompassing political dialogue and development cooperation. The Joint Strategy, that would outline the framework for Caribbean-EU relations over the next five years beginning in 2012, is intended to foster an enhanced Caribbean-EU relationship to better respond to global challenges and to articulate common interests.

Pacific ACP states conduct major regional EPA meetings

PACP Trade Ministers  met in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on 9 August to secure a regional consensus on key contentious and outstanding issues in the EPA negotiations and discuss the way forward in the negotiations before the next negotiating session with the EC.  This meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the structure and location of the Pacific Aid for Trade and Development Facility (PDTF), issues related to the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy and the possible frameworks to engage development partners in these facility and strategy.

With regards to EPA, the question of market access offers has notably been high on the agenda, with some reported progress over the past few months with eight PACP states submitting their proposal to the EC. As pointed out by Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, these offers are however "conditional on the satisfactory resolution of a number of unresolved contentious issues", among which the issue of export taxes, development cooperation provisions, the MFN and non-execution clauses, and the question of rules of origin (RoO) for fisheries products[7]. The latter issue was notably discussed during joint Fisheries and Trade meetings that were convened, in the same venue, at senior officials' and ministerial level on the 4 and 8 of August respectively, representing an opportunity for some states to re-emphasize the necessity to secure global sourcing rules of origin for fresh and frozen fish.

On 19 July, stakeholders met with the consultants undertaking the European Commission's study on the implementation of the special derogation to the rules of origin for fishery products (global sourcing) included in the Interim Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Pacific States of PNG  and Fiji.[8] The purpose of the study is to analyse the implementation of the derogation, and to assess its impact on different levels: the developmental impact in PNG, the impact on marine resources in the Western Pacific, on trade between PNG and the EU and on the fisheries industry in the EU. The study is also of potential interest to other ACP countries.

The next round of negotiations with the EC on the EPA should be held in November 2011 in Brussels.[9]

Authors:

Melissa Julian is ECDPM Knowledge Management Officer. Melissa Dalleau is Jr. Policy Officer, Economic and Trade Cooperation Programme.

Notes:

1 Changes in Country Classifications, World Bank, 1 July 2011click here

2 EU and Eastern and Southern Africa hold Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations. EC DG Trade. 15 July 2011, click here
Uganda. Nation's Trade Partnership With EU. allAfrica.com. 8 July 2011 click here

4 Kenya exports to EU face taxation in trade agreement stalemate. Business Daily, Nairobi via Tralac. 28 June 2011

5 New CARICOM Secretary-General selected. Caricom. 21 July 2011, click here

6 Communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Thirty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. 30 June- 4 July 2011, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis.

7 Pacific ACP Trade Ministers' meeting. TUILOMA NERONI SLADE's remarks. 9 August 2011

European Commission Stakeholder meeting on study on special derogation to Rules of Origin for fishery products under Interim Partnership Agreement between EU and Pacific States. Brussels. 19 July 2011.

9 PACP Trade Ministers welcome market access progress. Press statement. 9 August 2011 click here

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