The second meeting of the EPA Committee under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) states – Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) was held by video conference on 20 July 2023.
Madagascar and Comoros joined the meeting as observers, given their intention to ratify the agreement shortly. The meeting was co-chaired by Mr Brendan McMullan for the UK and Mr Nairainduth Boodhoo for the ESA states.
The parties reaffirmed the importance of the ESA-UK EPA in strengthening the trade and investment partnership and agreed to examine options to further expand and diversify their economic relationship.
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The parties offered an update on their respective trade policies, including matters in the WTO and the upcoming Thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13), updates on FTAs concluded by the parties, and the launch of the UK’s Developing Countries Trading Scheme in June 2023. The UK and ESA states further noted the smooth implementation of the Agreement and no major hindrance were noted.
To maximize the advantages of the EPA, the parties acknowledge the necessity of using creative implementation strategies that will enhance access and expand exports to the UK. ESA further underlined practical measures including the possibility of further improving the rules of origin on products of priority interest to the ESA region. The parties agreed to convene a dedicated virtual session on rules of origin.
ESA states welcomed the draft decision on the technical amendments to Protocol 1 on Rules of Origin, which provides for additional flexibilities including an increase in the automatic derogation to 10,000 tonnes as requested by the ESA states. The decision would be adopted by mid-August, following completion of internal procedures by ESA states.
ESA states acknowledged the sharing of an interpretive note by the UK, and the decision on the exemption of multilateral safeguards would be adopted once the individual ESA states complete their internal procedures, by mid-August 2023.
The UK presented an overview of the range of development cooperation support eligible for the ESA region and assistance obtained so far through various instruments. ESA states welcomed the support and expressed the wish to have dedicated assistance including teaming up with the UK to modernise their trade portal for operators.
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The UK and Mauritius co-chairs thanked everyone for such positive engagement and welcomed the constructive discussions at the meeting.