Source: Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles |

Speech of H.E. Mr Vincent Degert, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius

First Eastern and Southern Africa - European Union (ESA-EU) technical meeting on the deepening of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)

We are today about to start something that may become a big step towards this aim, and also forge a building block of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius, October 3, 2019/APO Group/ --

By H.E. Mr Vincent Degert, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius on 3 October 2019 at 9.30 at Voilà Bagatelle Hôtel

Mr Said Abdou SALIM, Director of the Office of the Minister of the Economy of the Union of Comoros 

Mrs Edmee Ratefinanahary RANTOARIVOLA, Director for External

Trade, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Crafts of the Republic of Madagascar

H.E. Mr Haymandoyal DILLUM, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius to the European Union

H.E. Mrs Beryl SAMSON, Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles to the European Union

H.E. Mr Tadeous Tafirenyika CHIFAMBA, Ambassador

Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Head of the Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the European Union

Mrs Ewa SYNOWIEC, Director, Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to address you today, at the very first round of negotiations to deepen the Economic Partnership Agreement.  It is indeed a historical moment and you are a true vanguard in this part of the world that can set the milestone for other regions in the Africa EU partnership. Importantly, the deepening of the existing Economic Partnership Agreement is launched by our ESA Partners. 

Nothing could be more encouraging and positive than the initiative that you showed to have yet closer relations with the European Union. 

The EU is a truly reliable partner, an outward-oriented economy, committed to open and fair trade, and recently profoundly involved in reforming the WTO system. 

Free and complete access to the European market that EPA offers, with no tariffs, no limitation on quantities of exports, helps you our partners to remain competitive. Only partial and gradual opening on the partners' side is requested in return. This asymmetry is conceived to support local economies and to give time to adapt to a competitive environment. 

The Agreement has already brought about some palpable results. The exports of ESA countries have overall increased by 23% since the agreement entered into force. 

On a country-by-country level, the exports by Madagascar to the EU have more than doubled in the period 20122018. 

Seychelles have seen their exports increase by more than one third in the same period. 

For Zimbabwe, there has been a 12% increase in its exports to the EU over the same period despite a sharp decrease in the country’s exports to the rest of the world. 

In the case of Mauritius, the European Union remains the main destination for domestic exports, with an increase in exports of fisheries products, among others. I am also aware of a new type of niche exports from Mauritius, namely medical appliances. Value addition that this type of exports involves is something you and we have been striving to achieve.   

As for Comoros, it started applying this agreement only since early this year and I am confident we will see similar results.

In spite of these concrete benefits, the ESA EPA partners are ambitious to achieve more.  

They know that the changing, modern world demands constant development. 

In 2018 the ESA 5 made a request to the European Union for financial assistance to carry out the negotiating process for the deepening of the EPA.   In order to showcase its commitment to the deepening process, the EU agreed to fund an EPA Coordinating Mechanism, for an amount of almost 1 million euros.  The objective of the mechanism, which is in place since December 2018, is to provide essential logistical support to you ESA negotiators and technical expertise to enable you to formulate coordinated and common positions.  All of you present here have benefitted so far from the Coordinating Mechanism, be it through assistance for the scoping paper or to fund your participation in negotiation meetings.  I would by the way like to seize the opportunity to thank the EPA Coordinator, Mr Servansing and his team for the excellent work done so far in working with the ESA 5 group.  I know that it is hard work and a lot of ground has been covered.

After almost one year of operation of the EPA Coordination mechanism, and now that the scoping paper has been agreed and the EPA deepening has been

launched officially yesterday, it is clear that there is need for more funds to enable the negotiating process to go smoothly over the next years.  I am therefore very pleased to announce that the European Commission just approved the commitment of an additional EUR 1 million for the EPA deepening process, making a total of EUR 2 million provided to this deepening process.  

We learnt this good news late yesterday, and I am happy to share it with you this morning.  We will now work with the ESA 5 countries to draw up terms of reference based on your technical assistance needs, so that the new facility we are setting up is complementary to the existing one.  I would urge all those present here to reflect seriously on your technical assistance needs, as provided for in the agenda later today, so that we set up a new mechanism that fully responds to your requirements.

For me, today marks a milestone.  Just one month after my arrival in Mauritius I am privileged to welcome here five Economic Partnership Agreement partners from the ESA region. Very diverse, together you shape the future of ESA, and more broadly, Africa.

To arrive at this point we all, both ESA countries and the EU, had to work hard. Thanks to joint efforts and persistence that all showed working on the scoping paper we are able today to be around the same table. 

The deepening is happening within a context of great attention being paid to African integration efforts, which we hope will culminate one day with the Free Trade Agreement between our two Continents. 

We are today about to start something that may become a big step towards this aim, and also forge a building block of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to you for making this first step possible. 

I was also quite pleased to note your dedication and highly cooperative approach yesterday at the signature of the Joint Communique in the presence of the  Prime Minister of Mauritius.  

I wish you plenty of success in all your endeavors, and a successful session today and tomorrow.

I would like to leave you with the words of Nelson Mandela: 'Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development.'  

I am confident that once concluded, the deepened Agreement will become a reference point for other

ambitious projects in Africa. So it is a great responsibility we all share today.

Thank you for your attention.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles.