On 14 April, in Brussels, European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht met Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) representatives, including Zambia’s Trade Minister and ESA Chair Felix Mutati and Malawi’s Trade Minister Eunice Kazembe. It was his first meeting with Trade Ministers from Africa and the first with ESA representatives since the signing of the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in Mauritius on 29th August 2009.
Talks were marked by a good atmosphere and the importance to take forward outstanding issues on the basis of mutual trust. The end objective remains to complete negotiations on a regional agreement covering not only trade in goods, but also other issues such as services and investment.
"It was a pleasure to have an open conversation with my ESA colleagues", said Commissioner De Gucht. "We discussed the very real challenges faced in the region in relation to trade and agreed that the trade we are seeking is about market creation. In this respect, I was encouraged to hear about ambitions to further integrate African regional markets. I pressed my colleagues to sit together with us round a negotiation table. Both sides agreed to sort out pending issues that are inhibitors for trust – the type of relationship I want to have with all my partners in trade."
ESA is a diverse EPA group including Indian Ocean islands (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles), countries from the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan) and some countries of Southern Africa (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The original ESA group at the start of the EPA negotiating process also included the Eastern African Community (EAC) states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. However, in 2007 they agreed a separate interim EPA based around the newly formed EAC customs union, which also includes Tanzania.
The EU mainly imports agricultural products and textiles & clothing from the ESA group of countries. EU exports to the ESA Group are for the most part made up of machinery, vehicles, and chemicals. The EU-ESA interim EPA is a stepping stone towards a full, comprehensive regional EPA now being negotiated. The interim EPA was initialled with the Seychelles and Zimbabwe in November 2007, with Mauritius in December 2007, with Comoros and Madagascar in December 2007. Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar then signed it at the end of August 2009, while Zambia and Comoros are still pending.
For further information visit the Economic Partnership page: ESA Region