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Eastern & Southern African countries look to reinforce trade ties with EU

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Eastern & Southern African countries look to reinforce trade ties with EU

Cecilia Malmstroem - Photo EC

(MAURITIUS) - The EU began talks Wednesday with five Eastern and Southern Africa countries (so-called ESA: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe) to deepen their current Economic Partnership Agreement.

With the current agreement now in its 8th year, the five countries say their are now ready to move beyond trade in goods towards a more comprehensive agreement. The EU has welcomed this step, especially in the context of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.

Economic and Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development cooperation agreements that provide duty-free quota-free access to the EU market based on favourable rules of origin for the partners countries.

Since the initial agreement started to apply in 2012, exports of goods from the five ESA countries to the EU have increased by almost a quarter, reaching nearly EUR 2.8 billion in 2018. European businesses are also increasingly investment in the region. The new agreement should cover other important trade related areas and trade related rules, such as services, investment, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights as well as trade and sustainable development.

"The ESA region is a pioneer for the whole of Africa as regards our trade partnership", said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström: "The deepening of the current agreement will move our partnership to another level. It will boost bilateral trade and investment flows and will contribute to the creation of jobs and further economic growth in our respective regions while promoting sustainable development. The EU is fully behind this important endeavour".

The EU is the number one trading partner for the five ESA countries. In addition to improving the business and investment environment, a comprehensive free trade agreement would stimulate the economies of the five ESA countries, for instance by diversifying their exports to the EU. The process would also support the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs launched in September 2018. Moreover, it would promote both regional economic integration, for instance by developing regional value chains, and continental integration by furthering the ESA five countries' preparedness for implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the African Union. Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) are one of the building blocks towards the future AfCFTA.

At the request of the five ESA countries, the European Union has agreed to provide financial assistance for the setting up of an EPA Coordination Mechanism. Its aim is to ensure appropriate coordination and technical support to the five ESA countries so they can engage effectively in the negotiation process. The Coordination Mechanism has already contributed on the ESA side to the preparation of the scoping phase for the upcoming negotiations.

Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) with the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) states

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