EU ready to adjust EPA offer in a balanced manner

16 Jul 2013 13:40
WINDHOEK, 16 JUL (NAMPA) ? The visiting European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht says the EU is ready to offer Namibia measures for infant industries and food security safeguards.
?We are listening to Namibia's concerns about how to deal with European goods entering Namibia's markets at lower tariffs. The EU has already expressed that it is ready to offer measures for infant industries and food security safeguards,? De Gucht told members of the media here on Tuesday, immediately after a one-hour meeting with Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob and Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein, amongst other officials.
The EU and Southern African Development Community (SADC) are negotiating a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
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.
De Gucht however indicated that this regime is based on a temporary instrument which will end on 01 October 2014.
The visiting Trade Commissioner said he hopes and is convinced that Tuesday's meeting with the Namibian leaders would help to bring the EPA talks closer to a conclusion.
?Namibia is a key actor for the success of these negotiations,? he emphasised.
De Gucht indicated that he has also discussed Namibian requests for derogation from the Rules of Origin for the benefit of the fishing industry.
Rules of Origin are used to determine a product?s country of origin for purposes of international trade.
?I am positive that we will be able to come to a satisfactory outcome. This is a good example of what we want to achieve with the Economic Partnership Agreement ? we want Namibia's local industries to benefit and to create added value and jobs. But we are not there yet,? he said, adding that there are still some issues open for discussion.
One of the outstanding issues is agricultural market access.
The EU offers Namibia duty-free, quota-free access to the union's markets, but the EU in return also wants this agreement to be balanced, ?at least to a certain extent? De Gucht said.
?Therefore, the EU is asking the Southern African Customs Union, (SACU), to put an improved offer on the table which I can bring back to the European Union?s Member States. Once we have that, I am very confident that we can bring about the political will to finalise the talks,? he noted, saying that this is also why he is visiting South Africa and Botswana this week.
De Gucht arrived in Namibia on Monday and leaves for South Africa on Wednesday. He is also set to visit Botswana.
?Let me assure you again that the EU is fully committed to bringing these negotiations to a successful outcome, and sooner rather than later,? he indicated.
Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Malan Lindeque said much progress has been made on the EPA negotiations, but the negotiations have not been easy or simple.
?We are looking forward to the next round of negotiations in September this year. Maybe it will be the last opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues,? he said.
The outstanding issues for Namibia include export taxes, balance in agricultural products, tariff negotiations, rules of origin and management of fishing industry.