EPA Negotiations: The honeymoon is over...
The European Commission finally announced on 30 September 2011 that countries that have concluded an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) but not taken the necessary steps to ratify and implement it would no longer benefit from the EPA market access to Europe as from 1st January 2014. It concerns 18 ACP countries which will have to sign and start implementing their existing EPA or conclude a new regional EPA. If not, either they will fall under one of the schemes of the new GSP or they will have no preferences (as might be the case for Botswana and Namibia). This comes as no surprise. Putting a deadline could open the way for a new impetus to the current negotiations towards the conclusion of regional EPAs. But it could well turn out to be a guillotine if no flexibility is provided to advance the negotiations. Expect a bumpy ride in the coming months...
EAC and EC plan way forward in negotiations
Senior officials and permanent secretaries of the East African Community (EAC) and of the European Commission (EC) met in Zanzibar on 15 September 2011 to discuss the outcomes of the 9th EAC-EC EPA negotiations session held from 12 to 14 September. The parties agreed on a joint roadmap to guide the negotiations up to December 2011. (1)
With regard to the provisions on development cooperation, parties agreed to use the 2008 joint Economic and Development Cooperation text as a basis of negotiation and revise it and scheduled a joint EAC-EC technical meeting in mid-November to discuss the development matrix that the EAC agreed to submit by the end of October.
Other joint EAC-EU expert intersession meetings should also be held in November. One meeting will focus on the agriculture text that was submitted by the EAC to the EU over the summer 2011; another will be on the revised draft protocol on the rules of origins, including cumulation provisions, that was submitted by the EC in July 2011. The EAC also agreed to submit a draft text on dispute settlement and institutional arrangement by the end of October.
All these issues (development cooperation, rules of origins, agriculture and dispute settlement) shall be discussed at the next joint technical and senior level negotiating session in December in Brussels, as well as outstanding issues such as the MFN clause, export taxes, environment and sustainable development questions.
EU Trade Commissioner intervenes to advance SADC EPA negotiations
South African leaders and the EU Trade Commissioner met in Kruger National Park on 15 September to review the state of play of the EU-SADC (Southern African Development Community) EPA negotiations. (2)
Ahead of the summit, the EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, met with South African Trade Minister Rob Davies to discuss the EU-SADC EPA negotiations. Prior to that, De Gucht met Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and key ministers, as well as Namibian business representatives and civil society, in Windhoek to discuss Namibia's concerns with regard to the EPAs. (3) "We have taken stock of the EPA negotiations and cleared up some important misunderstandings that could have been a hindrance to signing," said De Gucht. De Gucht was also reportedly confident that outstanding issues, such as preferential access for Namibia's fisheries products that are sourced beyond the internationally accepted 12 nautical mile territorial zone and the ambivalent status of its canning industry, could be solved. Namibia's Minister of Fisheries, Bernhardt Esau, agrees, "There is an understanding that we can resolve the remaining issues as soon as possible."
Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group technical and senior officials met from 31 August to 3 September in Johannesburg to prepare the next technical level EPA negotiating session. SADC officials discussed market access issues such as the administration of cumulation, products to be excluded from diagonal cumulation in the EU, the fishery issues of Namibia, SACU - EU Tariff negotiations and products excluded from standstill. There were also discussions on unresolved issues as well as trade related issues.
Senior Officials agreed to delay the engagement of the SADC EPA Trade Ministers until after negotiations with the EU.
Pacific Leaders give EPA top priority
Pacific ACP leaders meeting in Auckland on 6 September called for continued all-regional negotiations on a comprehensive EPA with the EU and endorsed the revised EPA roadmap establishing the EPA negotiations as top priority for the region in 2012. (4) Lead Pacific EPA spokesperson, Tongan Trade Minister Lisiate ‘Akolo reported that the region has made substantial progress in finalising a regional position on the draft Pacific ACP-EU EPA text as well as finalising market access offers for eight Pacific ACP States (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu) - market access offers that remain conditional on the resolution of the contentious issues such as the global sourcing rules of origin for fresh and frozen fish. (5)
Pacific ACP leaders called for an independent regional body, other than the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (the capacity of which they criticise), to assist Pacific ACP States in their EPA negotiations with the EU and other related work. They also endorsed the convening of an Eminent Persons Group to discuss the issue of the management of Pacific ACP issues. The PIFS will remain in charge of EPA negotiations during the deliberations of the Eminent Persons.
The head of the Pacific's Office of the Chief Trade Advisor, Chris Noonan, resigned immediately prior to the Pacific ACP leaders meeting , citing personal reasons. The OCTA provides independent advice and technical support to Forum Island Countries in the PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. It is no secret however that he has struggled to ensure the independence of this office. There have been calls from Pacific ACP leaders to extend OCTA's mandate to EPAs. (6)
No information on Central Africa and West Africa
TNI is not able to confirm that the Central African regional consultations scheduled in September were held, nor is it able to confirm that the ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee on EPAs scheduled in September took place.
ESA EPA meetings postponed
The EU-ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa) meetings tentatively scheduled from 26-30 September have been postponed.
Authors: Melissa Julian is ECDPM Knowledge Management Officer. Melissa Dalleau is Jr. Policy Officer, Economic and Trade Cooperation Programme
1 East Africa Wants to Trade Beyond the EU, Wambi Michael, IPS News
2 South Africa-European Union Summit Joint Communiqué, 15 September 2011
3 Namibia: Nation Wants to Conclude Talks and Sign Economic Partnership Agreements, 15 September 2011
4 Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. Push forward as one region, urge Leaders. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. 7 September 2011.
5 Outcome of ACP leaders meeting in Auckland, Solomon Star, 7 September 2011,
6 Pacific's Chief Trade Advisor resigns, bilaterals.org. 2 September 2011,