SADC-EPA group to meet in Pretoria next week

08 May 2014 19:20pm
WINDHOEK, 08 MAY (NAMPA) – Trade Ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) group will gather in South Africa next week to discuss outstanding issues on the long-overdue EPA negotiations.
The European Union (EU) is currently in negotiations for an EPA with Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa, as the Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement group.
The Namibian team heading to the EPA negotiations in Pretoria next week will be led by Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein.
At a media briefing in Windhoek on Thursday, Schlettwein indicated that there are two outstanding issues which need to be ironed out before the group signs the EPA.
The outstanding issues are the safeguarding of agricultural products and export taxes.
“These issues are crucial to our economies. We want to protect our agricultural products just as Europe subsidises its agricultural products. If we allow it (agricultural products) into our countries, they will kill our markets because they are subsidised,” he explained.
Schlettwein noted that the other contentious issue is the ban on implementing new export taxes.
An export tax is simply a duty applied by countries to products before export, and developing countries have tended to use them on exported primary products.
The minister explained that currently, there is no prohibition on export taxes in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), describing the ban as uncalled for.
“We hold our position, that of having a desire and hoping to conclude and sign the EPA, but it has to be beneficial for both parties,” he stated.
Earlier, Namibia ruled out any chances of signing an EPA with the EU if the trade deal does not promote its ambitions to industrialise and integrate its economy with regional neighbours.
Namibia wants an economic partnership with the EU which will result in the growth of the country’s manufacturing industry, while at the same time affording Namibian products equal access to the EU market, he said.
“If our needs to add value to raw materials and take part in the European market with finished goods in a competitive manner are included in the EPAs, that is a step in the right direction,” Schlettwein noted.
“But If it is the opposite, it makes things more difficult for us to partake in finished goods, and if we do not have the policy space to start developing finished goods, then it will be difficult to sign,” he stressed.
The Trade Minister said Namibia needs policy space which allows it to protect infant industries.
“We need policy space to develop a safeguard that protects us against subsidised goods from the European market, and we need policy space to incentivise the beneficiation of raw materials,” he went on to say.
EPAs between the EU and SADC group are aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings, and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
These agreements are set out to help countries integrate into the world economy, and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.
For well over 30 years, exports from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries were given generous access to the European market.
Namibia currently enjoys free access to the EU market, and no duties are paid on Namibian products, whether industrial or agricultural, at EU borders. Namibia is also not subject to quotas.
This regime is based on a temporary instrument, which will end on 01 October 2014.
The EU offers Namibia duty-free, quota-free access to the Union's markets, but the EU in return also wants this agreement balanced.
The EU is the SADC's largest trading partner, with South Africa accounting for the largest part of EU imports to and EU exports from the region.
The SADC countries are strong in the exports of diamonds and in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia, these constitute a large to dominant share of their exports to the EU.
Other products from the region include agricultural products (beef from Botswana, fish and beef from Namibia or sugar from Swaziland), oil from Angola or aluminium from Mozambique.
The EU, in return, exports a wide range of goods to the Southern African Development Community countries, including vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals and processed food.