Seychelles Hosts Meeting With EU, African States On Economic Partnership

Seychelles is for the first time hosting negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the Eastern Southern African States that are focusing on the implementation of an interim economic partnership.

The two-day negotiations started on Tuesday at the International Conference Centre of Seychelles in Victoria.

The chief negotiator of trade agreement for Seychelles, Charles Morin, told reporters that one aims of the negotiations is to look at the progress that member countries have made.

EU and Eastern Southern African States interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) was signed by Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe in August 2009. Last year, Comoros became the fifth country to sign the agreement.

In his opening address, EU Ambassador Haymandoyal Dillum said that the relation between the signatory states and the EU is of great strategic importance for the economic development of each member state.

"At a time where there seems to be a growing tendency for protectionism particularly in international trade, our relations have remained steadfast in our commitment to each other is indeed refreshing. There is a need to consolidate this partnership," said Dillum.

Seychelles' chief trade negotiator said that the talks are also "looking at the different assistance and support that the EU has given us and the member countries as there are certain challenges faced while implementing the agreement."

Since ratifying the interim Economic Partnership Agreement in May 2010, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has met fully 42 percent, substantially 36 percent and partially 20 percent of the provisions and commitments made.

"There are certain sectors in the agreement to which we are facing difficulties to implement. In that case, we are voicing our concern to see how EU can assist us so that we can reach the Agreement's expectation," said Morin.

One area that Seychelles is encountering difficulty and gaining support from the EU is the fisheries sector, the second pillar of the island nation economy.

"In the Agreement EU has come up with an issue that before fish is being exported to the European market, it is necessary for the exporter to produce a catch certificate. The issue is that sometimes it takes too long for the operator (fishing boat) to give a catch certificate to the exporter. There are certain cases whereby the fish has been shipped, but the certificate has not reached the EU, and this leaves a burden on the importer, which has to pay several port fees," he said.

Seychelles will get 10 million euros from the European Union under a new contract signed in November last year to support the implementation of the current Economic Partnership Agreement.

Another issue for Seychelles is related to trade barriers, and Morin said that along with member states "we have identified some issues that will be brought forth during the negotiations and we hope to find solutions."

Other areas that will be discussed in the meeting will be free movement of goods which includes rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, customs and trade facilitation, public procurement, intellectual property rights, trade and competition, agriculture, dispute avoidance and settlement and others.

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