Wednesday October 5 2011

EU wants EPAs signed this year

By Faridah Kulabako

The European Union anticipates that the Economic Partnership Agreements could be inked before the end of this year if the EAC states are focused and maintain active engagement throughout the remaining time.

Mr Harvey Rouse, the head of trade section at the European Union delegation to Uganda said, “We are hopeful that if EAC takes active engagement in the remaining few months, we will deliver the required results before the end of the year as the European Commission mandate to negotiate EPAs runs out at the end of this year.”

The singing of the comprehensive EPAs hit a snag in November last year due to a number of contentious issues including the most favoured nations, export taxes, rules of origin, trade in services and sustainable development. Mr Rouse said failure for EAC to sign the EPAs has left businesses working in unpredictable and uncertain environment despite EU being Uganda’s largest trade partner outside the Comesa region.

“The current situation is not good for Uganda’s largest export market outside Comesa,” he said at a joint Tourism, Trade and Industry sector performance review conference in Kampala recently. However, during the EU and EAC senior and technical level negotiators’ meeting in Zanzibar last month, it was agreed that progress should be done with negotiations regarding economic and development cooperation, rules of origin and agriculture to pave way for the signing of the final agreement.

This is was the first time delegates were meeting over the matter following a break of 14 months. The next formal joint negotiation session is scheduled for mid-December. Mr Samuel Kasirye, the programme officer, Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute, however told Daily Monitor that the negotiations should be driven by content and not deadlines.

“We should critically analyse the contents of the agreement so that we get what we deserve from the deal. December could be a feasible time to negotiate and conclude all the outstanding issues in the framework agreement paper,” he said.