31. August 2009

Mutati refuses to sign EPA with EU

Zambian commerce minister Felix Mutati on Saturday, Aug 29, refused to sign the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, saying Zambia will sign at a later date.The refusal to sign by Zambia – as well as by the Comores – apparently came at the last minute, since the EU had already sent out a press release saying that all 6 had signed. This information however, posted on the European Commission's website, was changed and now reads as follows: "These countries are Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. Zambia and Comoros have indicated they will sign at a later date“. The EU stated that the agreement was signed in Grand Baie, Mauritius, by EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton and Swedish deputy trade minister Gunnar Wieslander on behalf of the EU. The deal offers the ESA countries that signed the agreement immediate and full access to EU markets [with transition periods for rice and sugar], together with improved rules of origin. ESA countries will open their markets gradually over the next 15 years, with a number of exceptions reflecting their development needs. Commenting on the development, commissioner Ashton said the EU had now laid the foundation to build a more comprehensive trade partnership that would support the ESA region's work to build diverse and sustainable economies. As a Least Developed Country, Zambia would still access the European market on a duty free access arrangement under the EU Everything But Arms trade arrangement and does not need to submit a market access offer to sign the agreement and benefit from its development cooperation and fisheries provisions while negotiations towards the more comprehensive deal continue. For information on the interim ESA EPA see the fact sheet http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2009/january/tradoc_142193.pdf . (The Post, Zambia; SADOCC)

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