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Kenya host market access meeting for Africa, EU ministers

15 June 2014, 09:28

Nairobi - Kenya will host a market access conference in Nairobi next week that will bring together ministers from the European Union and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (APC) regions, a government official said on Saturday.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed told a news conference in Nairobi that the June 16-20 meeting will discuss Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and joint efforts to promote sustainable development, peace and stability.

"We are honored to host the 99th session of the ACP Council of Ministers and the 39th session of the joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers next week. An estimated 100 ministers and 500 delegates will attend the forum," Mohammed said.

Mohammed said the ministers will consult on trade in vital commodities such as cotton, bananas and sugar.

"Trade matters and development finance cooperation top the list of items for discussion. There will be side events focusing on ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation with the EU," said Mohammed.

Kenya's trade industry is currently concerned that the EPAs will not be signed by the Oct. 1 deadline. If not signed, manufacturers stand to lose market access to Europe and billions of shillings.

The nation stands to benefit from foreign exchange earnings, employment opportunities and penetration to the European Union market with EPAs.

The country has enjoyed preferential access to the EU market for the last 38 years through four successive Lome Conventions signed between 1975 and 2000.

The intention is to reciprocate the trading terms that the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have been enjoying since 1959.

But the negotiations have faced stiff competition from the civil society and Africa Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP's) trade experts because of the risk they pose to local enterprises.

Briefing journalists ahead of the meeting, Mohamed said the high level delegation comprising ministers and diplomats will engage in policy dialogue on matters related to economic growth, human and social development.

She noted that delegates will focus on strengthening institutions that fosters democracy, good governance, competitive market economies and environmental sustainability.

"We will mobilize support for ACP countries development initiative as enshrined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. These objectives are embodied in the concept of ownership and partnership," Mohammed told journalists.

Kenya is signatory to a trade agreement between ACP group of states and the European Union.

The EAC region has a tangible opportunity to seize the advantages offered by the EPA and to maintain Duty Free Quota Free access for all Kenyan exports to the 500 million consumer EU market.

According to Mohamed, the East African nation is currently engaging in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations within the framework of the East African Community.

The European Union is the destination for 60 percent of exports from the African, Caribbean and Pacific region.

Head of EU Delegation in Kenya, Ambassador Lodewijik Briet, said the bloc is committed to the conclusion of negotiations on key economic treaties.

"The joint session of ministers to be held next week confirms long-standing partnership between ACP countries and the EU member states. Both regions share common challenges and aspirations," Briet said.

He said the 2014-2020 EU funding to Africa will focus on climate change, food security, infrastructure development and conflicts mitigation.

ACP group of countries have a shared feature of being former colonies of European countries. They are all resource rich countries that have for long fed raw materials to the European manufacturing industries.

At independence about 50 years ago, these countries were extremely poor. So the Europeans decided to offer them preferential access to their markets to help them jump start their export trade.

The EU wants the ACP to reciprocate the preferential market access, but the ACP have been reluctant to do that, and instead have also been busy planning how to shed off the EU tag and embrace new trading friends.

- Xinhua


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