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Cameroon Opens Floodgates For Duty Free EU Goods 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Thursday, August 4, was the deadline for Cameroon to bow to the terms of the Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, which the country signed with the European Union, EU.
The main substance of the agreement is the reciprocal dismantling of trade barriers between the two parties.

If everything goes as stipulated in the agreement, EU goods will begin flooding the Cameroonian market. The agreement provides that Cameroon will open its markets to the tune of 80 percent for duty-free entry of goods from the EU market. Since 2008, when Cameroon heeded the agreement, its goods have been savouring a duty-free access to the EU market.

Already, a list of 1760 EU goods will have free access to the Cameroonian market. This includes cars, tractors, sewing machines, farm tools as well as many other goods that are not produced in Cameroon.
On the other hand, Cameroon will continue to send banana, rubber, cotton, coffee and cocoa among other products to the EU market.

The deadline for the dismantling of trade barriers comes in the wake of a looming financial malaise in which Cameroon will lose huge sums of custom revenue. Observers hold that Cameroon will continue to witness a negative balance of trade in such a situation. They argue that Cameroon has little to send to the EU market given that it exports essentially raw materials.

Critics aver that such a trade deal is unfair, given that Cameroon stands alone like a dwarf against 28 industrialised countries of the EU Bloc.

Cameroon ratified the agreement in 2014, thereby virtually divorcing itself from the ideal situation of a Regional agreement by the Bloc of CEMAC countries.

The Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Louis Paul Motaze, said Cameroon is still loyal to the Regional agreement that is still being negotiated. Observers hold that by signing the EPA alone, Cameroon is posing a threat to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC.

By forming the union, the six countries of the CEMAC Region had signed the dismantling of trade barriers for the free movement of goods and persons. Cameroon’s agreement with the EU is reportedly at variance with the CEMAC Regional spirit.

According to renowned Economist and Financial expert, Babissakana, Cameroon’s deal with the EU is a threat to Regional integration in the CEMAC Region.

The expert says the remaining five countries of the CEMAC Bloc have to chart a new custom policy, given that, Cameroon has disrupted the solidarity.
But CEMAC Heads of State have designated one of theirs, Ali Bongo of Gabon to negotiate with the EU for the postponement of the August 4 barrier dismantling deadline for Cameroon.

This was one of the decisions that the CEMAC leaders took during their summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on July 30.

Such a postponement, according to the CEMAC leaders, will give them time to conclude negotiations for the Regional agreement with the EU. They say they want to seal an equitable, complete deal that will accelerate integration and development in the Region. To them, the Regional agreement should cancel that of Cameroon for the sake of Regional integration.

Despite numerous apprehensions about Cameroon’s agreement with the EU, authorities say it was a positive economic decision because it will help to integrate Cameroon freely into the world economy.

In accordance with the implementation of the economic partnership accord, President Biya on Wednesday, August 3, signed a decree, defining the modalities for the implementation of the deal with the EU.
The decree defined the category of goods that will be coming in from the EU market. It further states that the agreement will be implemented progressively over a period of four years.

According to President Biya, the goods that will be coming in like medications will help fight poverty in Cameroon, increase productivity and eradicate misery.
For one thing, optimists hold that Cameroon will cope in such a situation because of its diversified economy.

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