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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

EU-EAC Trade Deal - Why Has It Been a Hard Sell?

The East African Community is divided on whether to sign a key trade agreement with the European Union. ALON MWESIGWA explains how the EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) would affect the region. It is midday on a Sunday and Tom Sajje organises his fishing net in Kitooro on the shores of Lake Victoria, preparing for the evening's journey to fish. "These days, we struggle to get fish; it is no longer as available as it used to be," Sajje said, referring to the dwindling fish stock in the lake. Sajje, who is clearly using archaic methods, says they have not been helped much to improve their fishing methods and their general well-being. People like Sajje have a special mention in the EU-EAC EPA trade deal. It promises "ensuring preservation and priority of particular needs of the artisanal/subsistence fishery." The EU-EAC-EPA deal would also ensure technology transfer, provide for funds, environmental protection, which would in turn grow fish stock, and elevate people like Sajje, but most importantly improve fish exports. That's not all. Once signed, it will affect everyone - from a management firm at an air-conditioned office in town to a cassava farmer in Moroto. The issue is for better or for worse. The 640-page agreement gives a glimpse of how trade will be like in the next 25 years if it is signed. In its preamble, it promises "to serve as an instrument of development... and facilitate attraction of investment, technology and the creation of employment in the EAC." Yet, the hardest question is why a trade deal that promises so much - at least on the surface - including unimpeded access to the European market and support to sectors such as agriculture and fisheries - has been a hard sell to the region.The EPA is a trade deal between the European Union and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), a group of 79 countries, mainly former EU colonies. This deal has its roots in the year 2000 when the ACP signed the Cotonou agreement - named after the capital city of Benin, where it was signed - with Europe. Under this arrangement, the former enjoyed privileged access to the EU's market, which was seen as unfair to other countries that didn't have this arrangement.

Source: Allafrica