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Friday, 04 September 2009

EPAs: Zambia and Comoros refuse to sign

Two southern African nations abruptly refused to sign a free-trade agreement with the EU at the last minute before they together with four other countries were due to sign on the dotted line. The EC announced the signing of an Economic Partnership Agreement with the Eastern and Southern Africa regional grouping (ESA) of nations, but in the end, only Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. The setback for the commission's trade negotiators comes in the wake of two other recent failures to convince developing nations to sign up to its trade deals. Zambia's commerce minister, Felix Mutati, his country's representative in negotiations with the EU, declined "at the last minute" to sign, according to local sources, having earlier given indications he would do so. Mr Mutati had asked the EU trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, to simplify the language in the agreement. The representative of the Comoros, Hassane El-Barwani, said that he had not signed due to "institutional difficulties," including the fact that, according to him, the Comoros are "under the control of the International Monetary Fund." Details as to why the two countries decided not to sign remain hazy. According to commission spokesperson Lutz Guellner, Zambia had underscored that they do plan to sign at a later date, but that they wanted to discuss the issue with other least developed countries in the region first.
Source: euobserver.com
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