Free trade agreement between SADC and EU on the cardsBy: ADAM HARTMAN
AN interim accord between SADC and EU trade negotiators over an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on free trade between the two regions may be on the cards, and now only needs approval on a political level.
EPA negotiations took place in Swakopmund last week, and according to João Aquir Machado, Deputy Director General of the European Commission (EC) “much progress was made”.
EPAs were established to facilitate free trade between the European Union (EU) and the developing African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations.
The EU halted unilateral preferential trade on December 31 2007 since certain ACP nations criticised the EU for being discriminatory when it came to its preferences, resulting in the World Trade Organisation stamping unilateral preferential trade as “illegal”.
The EU, through its European Commission (EC) hoped that an EPA with the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) would be reached and signed by January 1 2008, but countries like Namibia and South Africa still had unresolved issues, delaying the process.
For Namibia most of the concerns were about “infant industries”, and the right to protect these industries. According to Machado, Namibia wanted provisions to protect young industries against competition and that would allow them to develop before facing competition.
Other concerns involved viable export taxes, quantitative restrictions on products and free circulation of products in the SADC region after being imported from the EU.
“It all went very good. We have made a lot of progress,” Machado said. “Are we going to be able to sign and interim EPA? Well, everyone is pleased with the progress, and everyone will have to report back to the ministers. We have reached agreements on a negotiatory level and now it needs to be discussed and blessed on a political level, and if the decision makers are happy, an interim EPA will be signed.”