Our negotiators in the EPA with EU have to stand their ground
By Desie Heita
18 June 2004
Negotiators in the expected Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with European Union (EU) will have to stand their ground if they are to give Namibia a better deal from the EU, -more especially if they do not want to give the country a replica of the Free Trade Area (FTA) component, to which the country is already subjected, under the Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) that the EU has with South Africa. The EPA negotiations will be held in Windhoek between 4 and 8 July. Besides Namibia, countries to participate in these negotiations include Botswana, Mauritius and Mozambique. A renowned figure in the issues of concern to the ACP and EU, Dr Paul Goodison of the European Research Office, was in the country and held a short seminar in Windhoek last week, that looked at implications presented by the EPA.
Goodison raised several important questions such as whether negotiators will compel the EU to render monetary or technical assistance to Namibian farmers to comply with the strict standards of exporting to the EU market. He said it would, perhaps, be unfair if Namibian farmers are expected to meet such strict compliance requirements which are expensive to finance while in the EU farmers are given monetary assistance, direct or indirect, to comply with the same set of requirements. Another possible threat, from the EPA to Namibian agricultural products, is the country’s beef exports to South Africa. The question is whether Namibian beef will still find buyers in South Africa if the buyers can get the real thing from Germany.
In his seminar Goodison indicated that a beneficial EPA with the EU would be an agreement that is not entirely subjected to the TDCA but that is practical, reciprocatory and none-discriminatory to the negotiating countries thus giving equal exposure to their products, on which they have a comparative advantage, in the EU market. This is of paramount importance, he explained, especially with regard to the FTA between South Africa and the EU. Under the TDCA agricultural products are regarded as one of the sensitive sectors placed under protection, and thus excluded from the FTA, “in order to protect the vulnerable sectors of both parties” according to the TDCA act. The exclusion covers all Sacu member states. The TDCA agreement, while taking into account that “these products are of particular interest” for Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, notes that “these (agricultural) products account for low percentages of the trade between the two parties.” The agreement with South Africa includes mainly industrial items, automobile components and certain textile and clothing.
This is one of many reasons, advocated Goodison, why Namibian negotiators would want to have well defined terms of reference that stipulate clearly what benefits do they expect from the EPA. Agriculture is Namibia’s strong point and benefits from exporting beef, partly because of the partial liberalisation of certain conditions under the TDCA and FTA toward other Sacu members states. If under these oncoming negotiations there is a possibility, explains Goodison, of expanding Namibia’s agricultural exports to European then they must be utilised fully. But that will depend on how prepared are the negotiators. Delegates to these negotiations are expected to include high ranking officials from the concerned countries.