Regional Fresh Producers Seek Early EU Deal
East African Standard (Nairobi)
29 August 2007
Posted to the web 28 August 2007
By John Oyuke
Key horticultural sector stakeholders from eastern and southern Africa regions want an early signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with the European Union.
They fear that trade between the two regions would suffer serious disruption should there be no agreement or an interim arrangement to safeguard the current preferential trade agreement.
“It is important that an interim arrangement be worked out to ensure there is no disruption of trade next year until a substantive EPA is signed,” interim chairman of Horticultural Council of Africa (HCA), Mr Hasit Shah said.
He said failure to secure a deal could mean exports from the region would be subjected to duty of between eight and 15 per cent starting next year.
“We don’t have such margins and efforts must be made to sign something by the end of October,” Shah told a news conference in Nairobi on Tuesday.
The proposed trade agreement will replace the existing arrangement between the EU and 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, which allows the latter duty-free access to the EU market until December 2007.
Shah said with only four months remaining, horticultural producers need to know, in good time, the type of tariffs they would pay.
A director at Kenya Flower Council, Mr Rod Evans, however, cautioned against hurried deals that could backfire.
He suggested that two of the six pillars nearing completion be signed to abide by World Trade Organisation (WTO) requirements and to ensure the current status of preferential exports to EU is maintained.
The horticulture sector has relied heavily on market access preferences under the LomÈ conventions and the Cotonou Agreement and is strongly influenced by other trade measures.
It is a sector that could be impacted heavily by the final outcome of the EPA negotiations. Shah cautioned that until the EPA is fully negotiated there would remain uncertainty within the sector as to the final treatment of its horticulture products after January 1, next year.
The agreement covers Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.