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Botswana: Mogae unhappy with progress on EPAs

Mmegi, April 13, 2006

Botswana: Mogae unhappy with progress on EPAs

By Andnetwork .com

President Festus Mogae is unhappy with the pace of the on-going negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). "The EPAs are not moving fast enough for my liking," Mogae said during a joint press conference with visiting German President Horst Kohler.

He added: "We have to do something during the course of this year. The EPAs form the basis of our future relations with the EU and we are determined that they are concluded in time." The conclusion of the EPAs is central to the EU trade relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, which should replace the current Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP. The current Cotonou Agreement due to expire on December 31 2007 are said not to be compliant with the World Trade Organisation.

Further, Mogae, the current chairman of SADC might not be pleased to learn that there has not been much progress in harmonising the negotiating positions between the SADC group and the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) configuration. The SADC consists of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Swaziland while ESA - a loose configuration - includes Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius who are also SADC members. The ESA group also includes members of COMESA rang ing from countries from South, East and North Africa.

The chief negotiator of the SADC group, the Botswana Minister of Trade and Industry, Neo Moroka has been mandated by the SADC Council of Ministers to meet with his ESA counterpart in order to harmonise their negotiating positions. The idea to harmonise the negotiations was borne out of the fact that SADC and ESA have overlapping membership, giving rise to potential conflict. The delay in harmonising heightens fears of the two configurations coming up with different agreements with the EU, which could cause even more conflict considering that SADC is geared for a Free Trade Area by 2008 and a Customs Union in 2010.

Already there is fear that the negotiation agendas and issues may differ substantially and thus result in a growing deviation of the two EPAs during the ongoing negotiations.

The last time Moroka met with his counterpart from Uganda was in November 2005 and, according to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of trade and Industry, Banny Molosiwa, they exchanged notes. No other meeting has taken place although the two have agreed to meet at least twice a year.

Dr Regine Qualmann, Advisor on Trade and Regional Integration at the SADC Secretariat, said it was up to the SADC countries to ensure that there is a coordinated approach to the negotiations. However, she said SADC has already presented a framework paper now under discussion at the EU. She also pointed out that the decision by South Africa, which has a different trade agreement with the EU to now become a member of the negotiating team would help bolster the group. South Africa was previously participating as an observer.

The SADC region is the only regional grouping of the six regions carved from the 78-member ACP group whose members are negotiating the EPAs under different configurations.

 source: AND Network