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No new EAC-EU deal in sight yet

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th June 2010 03:00 AM

THE signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) should be conducted after thorough consultations with the various stakeholders, civil society organisations have demanded.

THE signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) should be conducted after thorough consultations with the various stakeholders, civil society organisations have demanded.

By Patrick Jaramogi

THE signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) should be conducted after thorough consultations with the various stakeholders, civil society organisations have demanded.

The EPAs is a bilateral trade agreement that the East African governments are negotiating with the European Union (EU). The main objective of the EPAs is to substantially liberalise all sectors of the East African Community economy.

The civil society organisations led by the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Initiative (SEATINI), are arguing that signing the EPAs will strip Uganda of its trade defence instruments.

“We as civil society organisations need effective representation because this agreement is very important to our livelihoods. We should take signing of such agreements seriously because they have far reaching consequences in future,” said Prof. Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a Makerere University lecturer.

He was speaking at a SEATINI workshop intended to deliberate on the state of the EPAs negotiations in Kampala on Friday. The East African Community Trade ministers failed to sign the EPA sin Dar es Salaam on June 9 after the European Commission disagreed on some articles and clauses of the agreement.

The Dar joint ministerial meeting aimed at concluding the outstanding issues in the interim EPAs and also sign the Framework Economic Partnership Agreement. Silver Ojakol, the commissioner for external trade in the tourism, trade and industry ministry, said the European Union wanted some articles and clauses of the EPAs changed.

“The EPAs was supposed to be signed on June 9 in Dar es Salaam but the ministers deferred the signing to November 2010 until certain clauses as amended,” he said.

“The most outstanding articles are 15 and 16 which discuss taxes on exports. We are saying we can increase the tax once there is an emergency but the EC are saying we must notify them in advance before we increase,” said Ojakol.

He said article 16 seeks to resolve issues of most favoured nations. “The European Commission wants the trade benefits given to other nations like China, India, Russia and Brazil extended to them. They want to know what benefits the EAC has with these other nations,” said Ojakol.

Other contentious issues are the standstill clause which freezes tariffs at current rates. This means that EAC states cannot use tariffs to protect local growing industries.

Kampala City Traders Association spokesperson Issa Ssekito said the majority of Ugandans who depend on agriculture and the informal sector will lose their livelihoods. “Loss of livelihoods and employment will contribute to the violations of the right to life, the right to work, the right to food, the right to education and to health,” he said.

No new EAC-EU deal in sight yet

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