Harare (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe, along with four other Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries, has started negotiations with the European Union (EU) to deepen the existing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which has been in place since 2012.
An EPA is an agreement that opens up the EU market fully, but allows African, Caribbean and Pacific countries long transition periods to open up to EU imports while providing protection for sensitive sectors.
The other countries also negotiating with the EU include the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
In a statement, the EU said negotiations with Zimbabwe and the other countries started this week to extend the EPA beyond the currently covered market access for goods and development cooperation.
“Given the positive results generated by the current agreement, now in its 8th year of implementation, the five countries have declared their readiness to move beyond trade in goods, towards a more comprehensive agreement,” the EU said.
“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 €2.8 billion in 2018. European businesses are also increasingly investing in the region.”
Since the current agreement came into force, exports by Zimbabwe to the EU have increased by 12 percent while Seychelles has seen its exports increase by more than one third in the period 2012-2018.
The EU said 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.
EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström said the economic bloc was eager to tie up a new agreement with the countries.
“The ESA region is a pioneer for the whole of Africa as regards our trade partnership. The deepening of the current agreement will move our partnership to another level,” she said.
“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 said it would provide financial assistance for the setting up of an EPA coordination mechanism to ensure technical support to the five ESA countries as they engage in the negotiation process.