Prime Minister Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, officially launched the negotiations on the deepening of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) between the European Union (EU) and five Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Member States, namely Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe (the ESA-5 sub-regional grouping) on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at the Maritim Resort in Balaclava.
The Prime Minister observed that the launching of the negotiations on the deepening of the IEPA marks a major milestone and opens a new chapter in the historical relationship between the EU and ESA States, stretching over long years of political and economic cooperation.
The deepening of the IEPA will define the contours of an ambitious partnership which will take over from the current Cotonou Agreement. It is expected to create more favourable conditions to boosting trade and investment flows and stimulate jobs creation and growth.
The new areas of negotiation as part of the deepening of the partnership cover trade in services, investments, customs and trade facilitation, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights, trade and competition, economic development cooperation and agriculture.
In his keynote address, Prime Minister Jugnauth stated that the deepening of the IEPA is imperative to keep pace with new trade and investment patterns in a constantly evolving global competitive environment and today’s trend is to invest in innovation and digital enhancements so as to shape national developments. The five ESA Member States, he said, take pride for being the first African countries to implement an interim EPA with the EU.
The Prime Minister further pointed out that in a world faced with daunting challenges whereby multilateralism is being undermined, it becomes crucial to fully integrate the global value chains to establish a solid and diversified economic base. He observed that the Interim EPA has well served its purpose to enlarge the scope of market access and to significantly improve the rules that determine the origin of several key products. However, he said, exports from the ESA signatory states have dropped by 7% since 2009.
He added that it is therefore important to take measures so as to reverse the trend and come up with a new form of partnership that contributes meaningfully to meeting these challenges as well as an agreement that helps to transform economies and undertake vital reforms.
Moreover, Prime Minister Jugnauth elaborated on the five key objectives that Mauritius wants to achieve through the deepening of the IEPA. They comprise an Agreement that will step up the competitiveness of the industries and diversification of trade and which should contain a mechanism to support business by reviewing non-tariff measures and solutions to overcome trade obstacles. The Agreement should also reflect the needs for both ESA and EU businesses to improve access to service market and modernisation of the Development Cooperation Chapter. Furthermore, the IEPA should contribute towards a stronger region both economically and politically through increased intra-ESA trade.
On a concluding note, the Prime Minister highlighted that deepening the IEPA should go hand in hand with the overarching development of ESA Governments while adding that a win-win situation should be the result of the negotiations.
For his part, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nandcoomar Bodha, recalled that the foundation of the EPA for the region was already laid by the successful negotiation of the IEPA which has been operational since 2012. The new areas of negotiation will constitute the foundation of a strong economic bridge between Mauritius and the region and Europe
Besides creating opportunities on the EU market, Minister Bodha emphasised the importance of creating a platform to capitalise on the African Continental Fee Trade Agreement while highlighting that the EPA should become an economic bridge between Europe and Africa.
In her video message, the European Commissioner for Trade, Mrs Cecilia Malmström, reiterated her full support to new challenges and stated that the deepening of this agreement will boost bilateral trade and investment flows and will contribute to the creation of jobs and economic growth while promoting sustainable development.
Signing of agreement for negotiating roadmap
A Joint Communiqué was signed by both the EU and ESA Officials during the ceremony to formalise the agreement reached at officials’ level in May 2019 on the scope and objectives of the deepening negotiations as well as on the negotiating roadmap.
Signatories were the EU Deputy Director General of DG Trade, Ms Helene König; the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Nandcoomar Bodha, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Crafts of the Republic of Madagascar, Mrs Lantosoa Rakotomalala, the Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles, Mrs Beryl Samson; the Special Advisor of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Mr Stuart Harold Comberbach; and the Director of the Office of the Minister of the Economy of the Union of Comoros, Mr Said Abdou Salime.
Following the launching ceremony, the first ESA-EU technical meeting will be held from 03 to 04 October 2019.