The European Union (EU) says it will continue engaging the new Malawi administration on the Economic Partnerships Agreement (EPA), barely days after government indicated it will review its position on the talks.
Head of Political, Press and Information Section at EU embassy, James Dolan, said in an e-mail response that the EU was optimistic the new administration will continue with the talks’ process.
“The EU remains committed to engaging with the current government on the benefits of signing an EPA, just as it has with previous governments.
“Ultimately, the decision on the type of trading arrangements Malawi will continue to have with the EU rests with the government,” said Dolan.
Newly appointed Trade Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha told The Nation last week that while government will continue to participate in the talks, it will consult again on whether to proceed with the talks or not.
But Dolan said the country has made several strides that has boasted confidence that the country will be among African and Caribbean countries to benefit from the agreement once a final deal is finalised.
“In the past few months, Malawi has taken steps towards updating its Market Access offer which, once finalised, will constitute part of the interim EPA.
“These developments culminated in a national validation workshop at the end of June where this Market Access offer was scrutinised by key stakeholders. We are confident that the deliberations will result in tangible outcomes and we are ready to engage in discussions on this offer whenever Malawi feels ready,” he added.
He further clarified that there is no deadline for Malawi to join the interim EPA or for the whole region to conclude the comprehensive regional EPA negotiations but said it was important that the country joins EPA sooner.
“It would enable Malawi to benefit from the opportunities that trade, cooperation and investment relations with the EU can offer,” he added.
EPAs is an agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings – and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
Former president Joyce Banda returned the country back to EPA discussions after meeting EU economic and trade chiefs in 2012 in Brussels, including EU Commissioner for Trade, Karel de Gucht after the country had previously abandoned the agreement.
But Director of Trade Christina Zakeyo told The Nation last week that the country remains on schedule.
“On a regional level (Comesa) we needed to come up with a development matrix which indicates what challenges we will face on implementing EPAs with a discussion focusing on issues relating to challenges in energy, production capacity, communications and ICT,” said Zakeyo.