“I don’t understand how such a powerful trade bloc can have a free trade agreement with developing economies of Africa,” former President Benjamin Mkapa told intellectuals at University of Dar es Salaam yesterday during a televised Mwalimu Nyerere Intellectual Festival debate.
Mkapa warned EA leaders against embracing EPAs which will have a disastrous economic impact on the five countries economies as subsidised agriculture and industrial goods will choke local manufacturers.
“I have not seen enough critical analysis on this subject by anyone,” charged Mkapa whose government led a campaign of least developed countries in 2001that frustrated an attempt by World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda to sign a global free trade pact.
“There is no way that our small economies can have free trade agreements with Europe,” the retired President emphasised.
Backing Mkapa’s arguments, University of Dar es Salaam’s retired law Professor Issa Shivji said who warned that EPAs will reinstate Africa’s colonial role as a raw materials supplier of European factories.
“If we want to industrialize as the government is saying, EPAs are not good for us because they will destroy our industries,” Prof Shivji argued saying EPAs will simply allow European heavily subsidised manufacturers access the region’s market.
“The Europeans also subsidise their agriculture sector which we can’t compete with,” Prof Shivji argued while urging EAC leaders to reject a colonial look-a-like trade pact which will suffocate infant industries in the region.
The EU has routinely defended EPAs as development tools because they allow African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries goods duty free entry into the bloc while also allowing European manufacturers to export duty free to the bloc of largely LDCs.
“With regard to reciprocity, the EU has agreed that opening up of trade in goods by EAC countries needs to be gradual and controlled to achieve development objectives.
In fact, market opening takes place in an asymmetric way, with the EU opening up trade fully (100 percent) upfront, whereas in EPA, EAC countries have been free to protect almost one fifth of their trade and stretch their liberalisation efforts over a period of up to 15 years or even longer if deemed necessary,” said EU Head of Delegation to Tanzania, Ambassador Roeland van de Geer during a recent interview
Van de Geer noted that EPAs exclude various agricultural products considered key to food security and source of income for rural communities but also wines and spirits, chemicals, plastics, wood based paper, textiles and clothing, among many other items.
“All of them have been considered by the EAC vulnerable and, or products where import duties provide essential government revenue.
Overall, the EPA provides special and differential treatment to the EAC partner states, which take on fewer commitments than the EU does, in conformity with World Trade Organization provisions,”