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Industry remains divided over Economic Partnership Agreements

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The country’s industry players continue to be divided over the European Union (EU)’s proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

The development comes at a time Malawi is yet to initial and sign the EPAs.

EPAs are a scheme to create a free trade area (FTA) between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

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They are a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with WTO rules.

Speaking during the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Blantyre last week, the Chamber’s Chief Executive Officer, Chancellor Kaferapanjira, said industry players continue to hold diverging views on whether Malawi should sign the EPAs or not.

He said failure to sign the EPAs could hurt those firms that export to the EU while signing the EPAs could hurt budding local industries.

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Kaferapanjira told MCCCI members that the matter is currently at Cabinet level for direction.

The EU is Malawi’s largest trading partner in terms of total trade accounting for 18.8 percent of the country’s total export volumes, followed closely by South Africa (and other countries in the Sadc region) and China.

Malawi continues to benefit from preferential treatment in terms of non-reciprocal, duty-free access for its exports into the EU market under the Generalised System of Preferences: the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement.

Kaferapanjira said the future looks tough for countries which have not initialed the EPAs as there is a proposal to ban their exports from passing through nations which have signed the pact.

Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister, Henry Mussa, asked for more time before he could respond to the matter.

Kaferapanjira also told the AGM that they should expect complex conditions when exporting to the EU from next January as the European trading bloc plan would require that traders register online before exporting goods.

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