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Malawi to resume EPAs negotiations

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Malawi is set to resume talks on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) after clearing some outstanding contentious issues which stalled the process.

EPAs are a scheme to create a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and Malawi is currently at a disadvantage when it comes to trading in terms of an EPA because it is a land-locked and least developed country with poor public infrastructure, low labour productivity, inadequate technological capacity and unreliable public utilities.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Wiskesi Mkombezi, confirmed on Monday that while the EU suspended negotiations of the full EPA in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region where Malawi is participating, Malawi will push for a new agreement as government is not satisfied with the interim EPAs.

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“However, the EU continued negotiations with the four countries [Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe] in ESA Region that initiated the interim EPAs,” he said.

He said that Malawi still believes that a successful EPA will be the one where both parties feel their interests are well taken care of.

“While other countries endorsed the interim agreement in the Sadc Region, Lilongwe did not due to sticky issues to do with development which needed to be addressed first,” Mkombezi said.

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He added that currently, the country is not losing out on any trade deals because Malawi as a least developed country benefits from an equally favourable market access initiative similar to the EPAs known as Everything But Arms (EBA) where it can export everything except arms to the EU without paying duties.

“Let us remember that in agreements like these, both parties have interests to protect and advance. We will engage with them more on how best to deal with the stalled talks,” he said.

The Malawi Economic Justice Network earlier said that interim EPA, in its current form, could undermine Malawi’s policy autonomy and cause calamity to the country’s economic development.

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