New Era 10/9/2009
Germany urges Namibia to sign EPA
Germany this week urged Namibia to sign the contentious Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EPA) as the deadline for the controversial trade agreement draws closer.
German Ambassador Egon Kochanke, at an occasion of the Day of German Unity held in Windhoek yesterday, said “it is in Namibia’s best interest” to sign the trade pact, which Namibia has so far refused to initial.
“We realize what a failure to ratify the interim agreement would mean for the Namibian economy,” Kochanke said, without revealing the details of the perceived consequences for not signing the deal.
Government maintains that its conditions should be considered before the pen is put on any dotted line, a stance that has provoked fear in some quarters of the country’s economy.
The agricultural sector, the leading exporter of goods to the European Union, is among those who have kept their fingers crossed, hoping Government would change its position on the matter.
Namibia’s leading exports to Europe are beef, grapes and dates, although grapes have now found a new market in the USA.
The fate of Namibian beef remains in the balance and leading exporters fear the consequences if Government decides to snub the deal altogether.
Kochanke showered the EPA with praises at yesterday’s event, saying the trade pact would provide Namibia with cheap access to the European market.
“The full establishment of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and SADC members is to provide duty and quota free access for exports from African countries to the European markets, putting trade at the service of development,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marco Hausiku, who also officiated at yesterday’s event, said Namibia is “very serious” about the EPA, but maintained that talks are still ongoing with the EU with a view to reach consensus on the matter.
“We are very serious about the EPA and we fully understand the process. We will make our position known when the time is right to do so,” he said.
Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob has in recent months indicated that Government would not be rushed into signing the deal because under its current form, the deal may have far-reaching consequences for the economic future of the country.
Namibia maintains that opening a reciprocal market access to European business as provided in the EPA would put Namibia in a disadvantaged position as she cannot compete with industrialized European manufacturers.
Further concern is that Namibia’s initialling of the full EPA may mark the demise of the country’s infant industries, which still need government protection.
Namibia is one of two Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) members who have so far refused to sign the agreement alongside South Africa.
The custom union’s other three members, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, signed the interim EPA about four months ago.