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EU remains dead set on trade deal

The Namibian, Namibia

EU remains dead set on trade deal

By Jo-Maré Duddy

4 November 2011

Nampa-Reuters/European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht took a “conciliatory but firm stance” on economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations when he recently met with Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries.

“After four years, 18 countries have still not moved towards ratification of their agreements. This situation is unfair towards those which have done so,” De Gucht was quoted yesterday on the website of The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an ACP-EU institution working in the field of information for development.

Namibia still has not signed the controversial trade pact. It provisionally initialled the interim EPA in December 2007, but has refused to sign it unless issues regarding unfair competition are resolved.

Meeting with ACP countries last week, De Gucht said: “The commission has had to adopt a proposal to withdraw market access preferences by the end of 2013, for those countries that do not complete their procedures.”
Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob recently lashed out against what he called a unilateral decision. De Gucht met with Government in Windhoek on September 13, without mentioning a word about the 2014 ultimatum.

“This is not a partnership. By setting an arbitrary deadline the EU is trying to put pressure on us to sign the economic partnership agreement,” Geingob told The Namibian at the time.

According to EU calculations based on 2009 trade figures, Namibia will have to pay 58,2 million euro in duties if it loses its preferential market access to the 27 countries constituting the EU. At yesterday’s exchange rate, that amounts to about N$634 million.

While the loss of preferential market access may hit several countries hard, De Gucht last week said he was optimistic that many regions will have completed negotiations and ratification by the beginning of 2014.
“We reached out to the governments concerned to ensure timely completion of legal obligations,” he said.

“At the same time, we also put in solid efforts to intensify negotiations on full EPAs, with some good results. If sufficient political will is mustered on all sides and we develop a realistic understanding of our mutual interests, it is possible to conclude these processes soon, well in time for ratification before 2014,” De Gucht said.