EPA deal: Impasse on services persists
Although the region has concluded a deal on market access to the European Union, there remain fundamental disagreements on trade in services. The EastAfrican has learnt that the matter will be left out of any deals signed this year as countries want it handled at a bilateral level.
Trade in services under the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement, deal with rules under which nationals of one country can sell their expertise in the services sector of another World Trade Organisation member country.
Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry permanent secretary Julius Onen told The EastAfrican that Kampala will sign the agreement for market access and development aid this year, but not a comprehensive agreement that includes trade in services, as well as other sticky issues like investment rules and government procurement, until the Europeans "accept the EPA is part of an older agreement (Cotonou) which recognised that the developing world is not equal to the EU," he said.
However, there are also concerns over development assistance that the East African countries are pressing for from their EU partners before the region can sign the controversial trade pact. Between now and March this year, a series of technical negotiation meetings have been scheduled, first in Bujumbura, then in Kigali and Arusha, which will culminate in a decision on the development chapter.
"We hope to reach an agreement by March," Mr Onen said.
The developing world has been pushing Europe since the commencement of EPA negotiations at the start of the last decade, to increase development aid as a commitment to help African, Caribbean and Pacific economies prepare for a liberalised market regime.
By Julius Barigaba