Harare, 18 December 2011/ The Standard: The Government of Zimbabwe says the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) regional grouping is dedicated to negotiating with the European Union (EU)’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that meet the expectations of member countries.

The EU recently issued a statement calling on countries that have not ratified and implemented the EPAs to do so. It warned that nations that fail to ratify the agreement will not benefit from market access to Europe from January 2014.

So far, only 18 islands from 36 African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) have ratified their EPAs.

Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry acting permanent secretary Lubasi Sakwiba said the danger of failing to ratify the EPAs is that a country stands to lose out from preferential market currently being enjoyed as a result of initiating the drafted EPAs.

“The danger of failing to ratify EPAs is that a country stands not to benefit from some of the provisions under EPAs. For instance, there could be potential loss of predictable trade,” Mr Sakwiba said.

Mr Sakwiba said if the EPAs do not take off, ESA countries would have to use the EU’s universal system of preference in trade, which provides less market access than would be acquired under the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative.

He said the existing EBA initiative for Least Developed Countries (LDC) will continue to apply as long as the EU does not withdraw it.

He cited the removal of tariff limitation on exports to the EU market as one of the benefits of EPAs.
He said EPAs provide an opportunity to negotiate favourable trade-related issues, rules of origin and standards among other issues being discussed.

Mr Sakwiba said the regional bloc has continued to negotiate for special and different treatment that will provide countries with greater flexibility in several areas compared to the EU.

– NANCY MWAPE, The Standard (Zimbabwe)