African leaders fail to unite on EPAs

04 Apr 2014 15:00pm
By Charles Tjatindi
BRUSSELS, 04 APR (NAMPA) - The just-ended European Union (EU)-Africa Summit has failed to unite leaders of African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) countries over trade deal agreements with the European Union.
The summit was held on Wednesday and Thursday in the Belgian capital Brussels, the headquarters of the EU.
African leaders failed to forge a united front against the most prominent trade deal with the EU - the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - as many sought to consider their countries’ economic interests first.
While many countries initially agreed to lobby for better conditions attached to the signing of the EPAs, most failed to see their promises through, and instead indicated that they would be signing the EPAs.
Nampa has learnt from sources which were present during closed-door engagements that many African leaders bailed-out of the united front against the EPAs at the last minute.
Many countries which had agreed in principle to sign the EPAs were those which do not have high volumes of exports to the EU, and as such sorely rely on the EU for most of their foreign earnings in export goods.
Namibia exports beef, fish and grapes to the EU in large quantities.
Nigeria and many of the Caribbean nations have agreed to honour such agreements with the EU before the stipulated cut-off date of 31 October 2014, while South Africa has adopted a wait-and-see approach.
Namibia has been leading the pack of countries within the ACP which refused to sign the EPAs in their current form, arguing that they are more tilted in favour of the EU.
Namibia and the few countries supporting its cause argue that signing the EPAs in their current form will be tantamount to mortgaging off the country's wealth to the EU, in return for weak trade arrangements.
Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob, who is leading the Namibian delegation to Brussels, had warned before the summit that the country needed to tread carefully to avoid falling into a trap when dealing with the EU on the EPAs.
The Premier, according to sources, was disappointed in African countries’ withdrawal from the pack, but nonetheless decided to forge ahead with negotiations for better deals through the EPAs.
The EU is the most lucrative market for African products, and trade arrangements between the two entities have raked in millions of dollars for African countries, which export mainly finished goods to the EU.