Trade ministers from Eastern and Southern African (ESA) region were scheduled Thursday to meet the new European Commission (EC) trade co mmissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss outstanding issues on the Econom ic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Zambia’s Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Felix Mutati, who is chairperson of the ESA council of ministers, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya will be among those attending the meeting, the state-owned Times of Zambia reported.
Mutati said the meeting was important because both EC and ESA representatives wo uld discuss the way forward on outstanding issues on EPAs.
Mutati was hopeful that a road-map to conclude the interim EPAs would be agreed during the course of this year and that it would be dealt with at the political and technical level.
He said there was need for the interim EPA process to be concluded during the co urse of this year, because on the other side countries were also dealing with the Doha development agreement that was also anticipated to be concluded this year.
On 1 January, the EU signed what is called the Lisbon Treaty that brought in new commissioners and a new relationship in both political and economic spheres.
Previously, the ESA Group was negotiating with the former EC Commissioner of Tra de Catherine Ashton, who has now been promoted to the equivalent of foreign minister for the commission.
Mutati said the ministers from the ESA group would engage with the new commissio ner to try and take stock of the issues that still remain outstanding as well as the issues that still remain contentiou s for conclusion.
Last year, the EU signed an interim EPA with countries from the ESA