ATUNA reports that the IEPA (Interim economic partnership agreement) concluded by the EU with four ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa) countries, including three processed-tuna exporting countries – Mauritius, Madagascar, and The Seychelles – took effect on 14 May 2012.
Beyond providing duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market for tuna exports, the agreement covers provisions on rules of origin, development cooperation, fisheries, trade defence instruments and dispute settlement.
A DG Trade note highlights that measures in the agreement mean that ESA countries as a whole will have new ways to ‘develop their fisheries’.
The development of local fisheries is also emphasised in the latest bilateral fisheries partnership agreement between these three countries and the EU, in which a new article focuses on ‘Promoting cooperation among economic operators and in civil society’, including through:
- ‘economic, commercial, scientific and technical cooperation in the fisheries sector and related sectors’;
- ‘exchanges of information on fishing techniques and gear, preservation methods and the industrial processing of fisheries products’;
- creation of ‘conditions favourable to the promotion of relations between enterprises from the parties in the technical, economic and commercial spheres, by encouraging the establishment of an environment favourable to the development of business and investment’;
- ‘the setting-up of joint enterprises in their mutual interest, which should systematically comply with’ both parties’ legislations.
Both the fishing and fisheries trade aspects of relations between the EU and the three countries concerned need to be addressed in a coherent way at the regional level, if these countries are to develop their fisheries in a sustainable manner. The apparent synergies between the IEPA and the bilateral agreements in terms of promoting investments and sustainable fisheries management address the often heard criticism that bilateral FPAs did not take into account the regional dimension of fisheries. Moreover, and that’s an added value, the IEPA may provide the right framework to protect investments called for by the FPA, which have, until now, been made difficult by the lack of a secure environment for private investments in ACP countries fisheries. A particular issue that requires attention, - and where appropriate investments could play a positive role-, will be the increasingly higher standards demanded by the EU for its imported fishery products (traceability, etc). Specific support therefore needs to be discussed within the EPA framework to ensure that these standards do not become a de facto non-tariff barrier.