October 21, 2006, POST

The potential impact of any trade agreement such as the EPAs must go beyond pure economic gains, University of Zambia head of Economics Department Professor Venkatesh Seshamani has advised.

During a regional dialogue on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations and economic development in Lusaka on Thursday, Prof Seshamani said trade agreements entered into by developing countries with the developed countries with the developed nations must yield broader benefits in terms of human development.

Prof. Seshamani said it was necessary to go beyond the text of the agreement, which may focus narrowly on the economic gains while looking at broader social consequences.

“Trade in developing countries of Africa should not be regarded as a value- neutral policy instrument but must also reflect social gains in terms of poverty reduction, addressing chronic and fatal diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS and improves access to social services especially by the poor,” Prof Seshamani said , “As has been defined in the Nairobi declaration, the development content of agreements must take on board among other things full market access, policy space and flexibility for implementation of Africa’s development programmes.”

Prof Seshamani said the trade agreements must also alleviate the supply side constraints that will help improve dynamic competitiveness of Africa’s products. He said African countries would readily welcome agreements that have the potential to raise economic growth as well as generate employment opportunities and improve livelihoods for the poor.

“But where positive economic benefits entail negative social consequences, one would need to take a harder look at such an agreement.”Prof Seshamani said. “For instance, an agreement may be seen to bring about a significant improvement in exports and foreign exchange earnings for the developing country in question but at the expense of damaging the environment in some way. The long-term impact of such an agreement may not be helpful.”

During the same function Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretary general Erastus Mwencha said there was need for additional support for a good outcome of the EPAs negotiations.

He said the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries would continue to demand for EPAs that were an instrument for development.

“The EPAs must support regional integration, they must help the African countries to attain regional development,” Mwencha said.

He said the EU had been doing a number of strange things behind the backs of the ESA countries. “One of them is the programming of the European Development Fund (EDF) resources, “said Mwencha.