European Parliamentarians Back Trade Deal With Six African Countries
The European Parliament has approved an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with six member states of the South African Development Community (SADC) to ensure immediate duty- and quota-free access for their exports to the EU market. It also creates new regional opportunities through more flexible use of rules of origin.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) approved the deal by 417 votes to 216, with 66 abstentions.
“This agreement will help our African partner states to reduce poverty and can also facilitate their smooth and gradual integration into the world economy,” said MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of Germany, the measure’s sponsor. “There are also many safeguards in the deal to ensure that local people truly benefit from this cooperation. The language on human rights and sustainable development is one of the strongest that you will find in any EU agreement.”
The African countries will liberalize 86 percent of their trade with the EU (for Mozambique, the number is 74 percent) over ten years with the exception of agricultural and fishery products. The deal replaces the previous interim agreements based on unilateral trade preferences and complies with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
While the agreement covers only trade and development cooperation, it leaves the door open for services, investment, intellectual property and public procurement. To mitigate potential negative impacts on the SADC countries, several safeguards were added to the deal. The EU undertook not to subsidize its agricultural exports to these countries.
The deal also lists trade-related areas that could benefit from EU development cooperation funding, but none is pledged at this stage.
In a July resolution, international trade MEPs advocated strengthening the monitoring of the agreement to ensure that “its benefits for the people are maximized”. The committee also tabled an oral question to the Commission for this plenary on parliamentary oversight and civil society monitoring.
The deal will enter into force once the European Council formally approves it and the national parliaments of the six African states ratify the text.