16 Jul 2014 18:30pm
WINDHOEK, 16 JUL (NAMPA) Namibias negotiations towards a final Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) concluded in Pretoria on Tuesday, and will be submitted to the National Assembly (NA) for ratification and signing.
Namibia has been engaged in an ongoing intensive process of negotiations since 2007 towards a final EPA, which would create a stable and reciprocal, asymmetrical, trading relationship with the EU.
Namibia never signed the EPA during the negotiations, because a number of strategic issues prevented the country from agreeing to the interim EPA which was concluded in 2007.
Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein told Parliament on Wednesday that Namibia, as a member of the negotiating configuration, took strong and consistent policy stances during the negotiations despite the threat of isolation or exclusion from market access and at the risk of insurmountable divisions with the negotiating group.
He said unresolved issues during the negotiations had to be addressed to avoid Namibias future trade and industrialisation from being constrained.
Issues addressed included the freezing of existing export taxes and the prohibition of new export taxes; a highly-restricted use of Infant Industry Production (IIP) and the limited nature of the bilateral safeguard mechanism proposed by the EU; and the refusal of the EU to agree to a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural goods to be liberalised under the EPA.
Namibia refused to accept the right-of-first-refusal that the EU insisted upon regarding the use of leased fishing vessels for the catching of fish from Namibias Exclusive Economic Zone for entry into the EU market duty free and quota free, he added.
Schlettwein further informed the NA that Namibia achieved a significant reversal on export taxes, which would allow applying for export taxes without major restrictions for economic purposes including IIP and revenue needs, despite restrictions on the use of export taxes for industrial development purposes.
Namibia thus secured permanent duration of the option to implement this measure, including the entitlement to apply it according to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
We have also achieved improvements and greater fairness in the bilateral safeguard mechanisms to shield us from sudden inflows of larger quantities of EU goods, and the EU has agreed to eliminate all subsidies on the goods exported to Namibia.
For newly-liberalised agricultural goods a special agricultural safeguard has been established, and a temporary safeguard mechanism was also created for sensitive products from the smaller economies in SACU, he said.
Namibia has also established a transparent and predictable framework for the exports of fish products from the Exclusive Economic Zone to the EU in recognition of Namibias fisheries management capacity.
Once the EPA agreement has been implemented, all external tariffs will be harmonised within the SACU.