Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Südafrika: Handelsabkommen mit EU unterschriftsreif

Mittwoch, Juni 30th, 2010

“Southern Africa-EU trade deal finally in sight

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)

© SADC/afrol News

Southern African trade ministers have pledged to sign a significantly scaled down economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) before the end of 2010. Could this be the conclusion to years of divisive negotiations?

It was a mere sentence in the draft minutes of the meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers in Gaborone on 17 June: “Ministers noted the strategy proposed by senior officials aimed at concluding an inclusive EPA by the end of 2010.”

A timeline in the document then outlines the signing of “an inclusive EPA” and its notification to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the end of the year.

After the skirmishes around the controversial trade pact – that spells out a reciprocal tariff regime on goods between SADC countries and the EU – the decision may seem sudden. As recent as May 2010, Namibian Trade Minister Hage Geingob defended the country’s opposition to the EPA in parliament, accusing the EU of “bullying” its much smaller Southern African counterparts.

While significant progress was made during a high level technical negotiating session in Brussels in early May, there are still some significant issues outstanding that could see signing pushed into next year. Independent trade policy analyst Wallie Roux, based in Windhoek, told ‘IPS’ he assumes that the December 2010 deadline will be missed.

“There are still too many outstanding issues. Signing an EPA by the end of the year would basically require the European Commission (EC) to drop these issues.” They include the contentious most favoured nation (MFN) clause that requires the countries to extend any future trade preferences with parties representing more than 1.5 percent of global trade to the EU.

Namibia and South Africa have fervently argued this reduces their policy space and hampers South-South trade just as SACU is negotiating a trade deal with India. The EC argues the MFN clause forms part of most trade agreements but there are indications that Brussels may be willing to limit the number of countries the clause applies to.

The definition of parties (DoP) that puts the SADC-EPA group, which is not a legal entity, at odds with SACU is also still not ironed out, as are the rules of origin that spell out which goods are considered to have been produced within the region.

For Namibia the issue of export taxes on minerals and infant industry protection also remains important.

Apart from these obstacles, “agreement has been reached on 53 tariff lines that were sensitive for the BLNS [Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland] countries,” says Jürgen Hoffmann of the Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF) that negotiates on behalf of the farming sector in Namibia.

“There are some 230 tariff lines under the TDCA that will still need to be aligned but I do not expect major problems with that. In truth there are only 10 or so dubious tariff lines left that need to be resolved,” he adds.

The TDCA, or trade and development cooperation agreement, is South Africa’s trade deal with the EU. On 21 June, it became public that Europe had indicated that the TDCA tariffs could be accommodated within the EPA.

Although this assumes – perhaps optimistically – that the BLNS would not have problems adopting the provisions of the TDCA it could go a long way in bringing South Africa on board and dramatically simplify alignment of tariff lines and rules of origin.

The EC also indicated countries could directly proceed to sign a full EPA, suggesting it would solve the problem of implementing the interim agreement.

Maybe the most important step forward is the EC’s offer to postpone agreement on services for another five years, or alternatively to let countries sign this provision as and when they are ready. The SADC-EPA ministers in Gaborone chose the first option and decided to start negotiations on this as a bloc in 2014.

“On services and investment, ministers noted that the alternative option proposed by the EC could be divisive and emphasised the need for the SADC-EPA group to move together and avoid division,” read the minutes of the Gaborone meeting.

A technical meeting in July and another high level meeting before August are planned to solve the last outstanding issues in the third quarter.

Relations between the Europeans and the Namibians deteriorated after Namibia refused to sign the interim EPA it had initialled at the end of 2007. A decision of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland to unilaterally sign the interim EPA, leaving other countries in the negotiation configuration behind, put pressure on the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Fears that SACU, the world’s oldest customs union, would disintegrate because of the EPA were temporarily laid to rest by heads of state during its centenary celebrations in Windhoek recently. South Africa is expected to use the upcoming SACU heads of state summit on 15-16 July to set the tone in the EPA negotiations. To this end, it might put in play its hold over the SACU revenue pool.

While South Africa contributes most to the pool, the other members benefit more under the current revenue sharing formula, deriving as much as 60 percent of their national budgets from the pool. Pretoria has indicated it wants to see changes to this arrangement.”

(Quelle: afrol News.)

Siehe auch:

Stop Epa Wirtschaftspartnerabkommen

Ostafrika: Der Wettlauf um die Region ist im vollen Gange

Freitag, Juni 25th, 2010

The scramble for East Africa

By Dana Wagner

2010-06-24, Issue 487


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The East African Community has accelerated negotiations with Europe for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The race is on for negotiators and lobbyists to either let Europe in or keep it out. And so far, influential EPA advocates are in the lead, according to Yash Tandon, former head of the South Centre and critic of African EPAs with Europe. As corporate proponents advance the trade deal, negotiations threaten East African unity at a critical time in its still early development.

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to open trade between East Africa and Europe is still on the table. At a three-day conference in Dar es Salaam negotiators walked away from the disputed deal, but promised to come back to it.

A deadline was set at the 7-9 June conference to sign the EPA and usher in freer trade between the two regions by the end of November 2010. A deal was first initialed in 2007 between the East African Community (EAC) of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya, and the bloc across the table, the European Commission (EC). This was the Framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement (FEPA), drafted as a temporary stand-in to await a mutually agreed EPA, but a formal deal has not since been reached because of an impasse over several key issues.

In fact, the conference in Dar es Salaam was supposed to cut off the ‘Framework’ from FEPA to secure a legally binding deal, but the EC didn’t get the signatures it was looking for.

‘We would have preferred to sign,’ said Eric van der Linden, head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Kenya, whose sights are now on talks leading up to November. ‘In trade negotiations, you have to be optimistic.’

Van der Linden said while he was hopeful to close the deal, he was not surprised the EAC withheld because the week before the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) resolved to delay signing the EPA in its current form. The 3 June resolution urges the European Union (EU) to work with the EAC ‘to include interests of both parties’.

But critics of the EPA, glad for the latest hitch in trade talks thanks to the independent legislative arm of the EAC, should curb a positive outlook.

The November deadline comes when the EAC common market, which opens in July, will still be finding its feet, and the accelerated negotiation puts pressure on both sides to quickly resolve outstanding issues, said Yash Tandon, co-founder of the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute and former executive director of the South Centre.

Key unresolved issues are: Losing export taxes that protect domestic industries against highly competitive and cheap European goods; EU concessions on economic and development cooperation; and the most favoured nation (MFN) clause that would force the EAC to duplicate for Europe any external preferential trade agreements with, for example, China or India. The implications of these final bargaining chips have drawn an allusion from EPA critics like former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa of this latest European effort to secure access to East Africa to the infamous 1884 Berlin Conference, dubbed the Scramble for Africa.

‘Europe will not concede on these issues,’ Tandon said, an unsettling reality because the EC-EAC negotiations are ‘heavily asymmetrical’.

Tandon said negotiations are firmly in Europe’s favour as an established bloc with strong members, while the EAC is only recently a unified region and four of its five members are UN-classified least developed countries (LDCs). With its weight, Tandon said Europe is able to negotiate EPAs that are crippling for African regions by using deadlines like the one now set for the EAC; ‘carrot and stick’ bargaining like aid and threatening or imposing sanctions – as done to Zimbabwe; and by taking advantage of regional fragmentation.

REGION IN PIECES

A significant destructive consequence of EPA bargaining with Europe is the subtle corrosion of unity in the African economic regions. Regional division is to Europe’s advantage and fits their ‘divide and conquer’ strategy for Africa, Tandon said.

The EAC is still negotiating as one bloc, but fragmentation is not unknown in the African Economic Community in EPA negotiations.

In June 2009 four members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, signed an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the EC. Other key members of this community, like South Africa, rejected a similar deal. South African commentators criticised the negative impact of EPAs on regionalisation, among other reasons like the probable trade diversion from other continents and the expected loss from cut export taxes.

The SADC is now in a position where some members have opened trade with Europe and some have not, but a handful of countries in both camps are part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) that promotes free trade between member states. To protect itself from an inflow of European goods via other SACU members friendly to EPAs with Europe – Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana – non-IEPA signatory South Africa could choose to drive a tariff wall through its own customs union, Tandon said.

The EAC should learn from the experience of its southern neighbours at a time that will critically test East Africa’s unity, Tandon said. The EAC Common Market Protocol will take effect from1 July and the varied preparedness and enthusiasm of member states have already sparked questions on their commitment to unity.

While divisions remain informal in the EAC, the powerhouse of the region has familiarly gone rogue, but unlike South Africa’s position in the SADC, top players in Kenya are leading the drive to let Europe in.

Kenya is the region’s EPA proponent, Tandon said, because Kenya stands to lose the most if it is not signed. As LDCs, the other four EAC members enjoy duty-free and one-way trade to rich country markets, including those in Europe. Kenya, a non-LDC, does not enjoy this benefit – as preferential trade under the Cotonou Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries (including Kenya) and the EU expired in 2007, to be replaced by EPAs.

The EPA is designed to end non-reciprocal preferential trade of goods from developing countries into European markets by taking down trade barriers against European goods flowing the other way. EPAs make open trade a two-way street. For LDCs though, duty-free trade can remain one-way – so of the EAC countries, it’s Kenya that’s sweating.

To maintain its duty-free ride into European markets, exporters in Kenya are lobbying to stamp and sign the EPA, and support letting East African protective tariff walls crumble to do it.

Kenya’s biggest exporting industry is horticulture, and flowers make up 90 per cent of its exports. This has landed the flower industry firmly behind the EPA.

Without this trade deal, the half million people directly employed by the horticulture industry and 4.2 million it indirectly employs would be heavily hit by the alternative – an end to duty-free access to Europe, said Jane Ngige, CEO of the Kenya Flower Council.

The industry currently benefits from zero-rated tariffs on some products and an average of 2.59 per cent on exports to Europe, its biggest foreign market where it enjoys a 24 per cent market share. During the airway disruption in April as volcanic ash drifted over Europe the horticulture industry lost an estimated Ksh231 million per day, CEO Stephen Mbithi of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya told reporters. Last year the industry brought in US$924 million; Kenya’s biggest foreign currency earner.

‘If we lost the EPA we will not be competitive in the marketplace, so we will lose exports,’ Ngige said. ‘Kenya would be losing these jobs.’

But jobs in less established and developing industries in Kenya and the region would be lost if the EPA is signed, Tandon said.

‘Many industries [in the EAC] need a tariff wall,’ Tandon said. ‘Without it, you get deindustrialisation as a result.’

It is small and medium-sized industries that should oppose EPA membership but it is the big exporters as well-organised lobbyists that are whispering into the ears of EAC trade ministries, Tandon said.

A POLITICAL PLUS

Another tactical push for EPAs, despite drawbacks like flushing domestic markets with cheap EU goods and preserving that unsavoury privilege with the MFN clause, is the ‘carrot and stick’ benefits Europe is sliding over the table, Tandon said.

The 2010/11 budget recently made headlines in Kenyan dailies as a towering tab without the coffers to settle.

The Ksh997 billion budget projection will be supplemented by €500 million – US$602 billion – from the EU, a rise of 25 per cent from assistance in 2009/10.

Tandon called it a motivator from Brussels for the EC’s star proponent for an East African EPA.

Van der Linden refused comment.

‘I’ve never heard about this,’ van der Linden said. ‘If we are [supplementing Kenya’s budget], it’s news to me so I can’t comment.’

The supplement was announced on 12 June by the EU. Tandon said such financial giveaways erode African independence and strengthen the negotiating position of the donor.

‘All these countries are highly dependent on aid. Europe is going to leverage that.’

To even the standing leading up to the November EPA deadline, Tandon advised EAC members to continue to work as a unified region to guard against damaging concessions.

One way to ensure EAC members participate equally is to engage the countries’ parliaments in debate over what an EPA means for each member. Subjecting the Framework to parliamentary ratification would open dialogue to all players instead of leaving it to the few and influential, Tandon said.

‘The tail is wagging the dog right now. Kenya is wagging the rest.’

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dana Wagner is a recent journalism and political science graduate from Carleton University.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)

Afrika: Aus der Traum vom freien Welthandel mit dem Westen

Montag, Juni 7th, 2010

“Africa: Developed World Inhibits African Trade – Report

Cape Town — Developed countries have responded to the global financial crisis by adopting protectionist measures which have damaged Africa’s chances of boosting its exports, according to a major new report.

The report, African Economic Outlook 2010, was released recently at the annual meetings of the African Development Bank group and is being
launched in South Africa on Tuesday.

It says packages introduced by rich countries in 2009 to stimulate economic growth have often been geared to favour domestic interests, by supporting their capacity to export goods, or to favour buying, hiring or investing in local goods and services.

‘Such measures clearly discriminate against developing countries, including those in Africa, on two levels.

‘First, African governments lack the resources to curb the domestic impact of the crisis with the same type of measures.

‘Second, African firms face unfavourable treatment precisely in those markets where additional spending is being promoted.

‘Hence, with these new measures African products could easily face discriminatory treatment in relation to similar domestic products and
services in developed countries, despite the general agreements about preferential treatment they may enjoy
.’

The report adds that protectionism is on the rise ‘despite repeated assurances in the context of the G20 meetings in London and later in
Pittsburgh, as well as in the context of World Trade Organization talks
.’

It calls for a rapid conclusion to the Doha Round of international trade talks, and to negotiations on regional Economic Partnership Agreements, saying this is ‘crucial’ to Africa’s medium-term trade prospects.

It also notes that African countries benefitted from the exponential growth in world trade which preceded the global crisis but that their
exports still amount to only three percent of the world total.

While protectionism by developed countries accounts partly for this, there were also constraints within Africa which inhibited trade, the report says.

‘Most African economies depend on very few primary agricultural and mining commodities for their exports and mainly import manufactured
goods from advanced countries. As the traditional markets in advanced countries are expected to grow less than markets in emerging Asian and
Middle East countries as well as markets within Africa, enhancing trade relations with these more dynamic markets is key
.’

The report also identifies poor transport infrastructure, political instability and lack of security, and intra-African trade barriers as imposing constraints on trade.

It says trade between African countries is still low, representing on average about 10 percent of their total exports.

‘Only 29.7 percent of the African road network is paved,’ according to the report. ‘The continent’s railway network is also very poor …
Shipping a car from Japan to Abidjan costs U.S.$1,500, while shipping that same vehicle from Addis Ababa to Abidjan would cost $5,000.’

African Economic Outlook 2010 is published jointly by the African Development Bank, the Development Centre of the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation anda Development and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.”

(Quelle: allAfrica.com.)

Westafrika: Freihandelsabkommen mit der EU unterzeichnet

Montag, Juni 7th, 2010

“EU seals trade deal with ECOWAS

By TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW

The European Union has agreed to seal a trade agreement in the tune of 6.5 billion euros with the Economic Community of West African States.

The money will help ECOWAS countries make use of the varied trade opportunities provided by the EPA in the region.

The deal falls within the framework of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). (…)

Weiterlesen…

(Quelle: Africa Review.)

Siehe auch:

Stop Epa Wirtschaftspartnerabkommen