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Ethiopian producers and business companies are due to further increase their exports to the European Union (EU) as a result of the changes in the Generalized System of Preferences agreement for the EU market to be applicable as of January, 2014.
The latest review indicates that several countries that produce similar products as Ethiopia, who used to benefit from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) agreement, will no longer do so. The EU, the world’s largest single market with more than 500 million consumers and a share of around 20 percent of global imports to its members, has bestowed a wide range of preferential arrangements for least-developed countries including African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP). Ethiopia currently is benefiting from the GSP agreement, a preference for countries which have not concluded the relevant negotiations for a comprehensive or interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Ines Escudero Sanchez, Director General for Trade at the EU, informed journalists at a press briefing held on the premises of the European Union (EU) on Monday, February 25, that the GSP agreement has recently been reviewed and it will be changed as of 1st of January, 2014. “Most of the countries that will no longer benefit from the GSP agreement are competitors of Ethiopia, since they provide the EU market with products that are also supplied by Ethiopia.” “For Ethiopia, the GSP agreement will still be in effect,” she said and added that the country will have to automatically upgrade the quantity and quality of the products it supplies the EU market. Ethiopian producers and business companies should therefore be prepared to use this to their advantage and fully benefit from it, she recommends.
“There are a lot of debates and discussions going on in the media to improve the business environment in Ethiopia- to improve on the share in business of the private sector in Ethiopia- to contribute to the development of the country as per the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP),” Ambassador Xavier Marchal , Head of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia, said. “Their exports to Europe are part of it.” “I would like to encourage Ethiopian businesses to take maximum advantage of that fact. The global environment is difficult now and they have to catch up and use all the opportunities that come their way,” warns Marchal, who believes there are many opportunities for Ethiopia in the EU.
The EU Business Forum to Ethiopia (EUBFE), a forum representing 300 EU companies, is striving to foster and strengthen economic and trade links between Europe and Ethiopia, according to Chris de Myunk, President of the forum. EU companies who have invested in Ethiopia are already exporting coffee and flowers from here,” “But there’s certainly potential to further enhance Ethiopia’s exports to the EU,” he said.
The EU Delegation and EUBFE held a three-daylong training, from February 25-27, for producers and business companies in Ethiopia, both local and international, to enhance their know-how and upgrade their knowledge on how to better export to the EU.
The EU Export Helpdesk, established in 2004 to assist exporters of developing countries obtain information on how to export to the EU under preferential arrangements, has launched an electronic information website (www.exporthelp.europa.eu) to facilitate market access from developing countries, in 2009. This free and user-friendly tool provides information on trade statistics, import tariffs and requirements. It also offers detailed information on the preferential arrangements in place between the EU and developing countries to make them aware and aid on how to enter the European market.
Attendees of the training basically have learned how to utilize this website that provides exporters, importers, trade associations and governments with practical information free of charge.
Europe remains, by far, the most important trading partner of Ethiopia. In 2011 alone, 43 percent of the country’s exports were to the EU. The reason for this, according to the EU, is that Ethiopian businesses enjoy preferential conditions to export to the EU with duty and quota-free entry for products.