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S.Africa, EU sign trade deal, to bridge Doha gaps

Reuters | Fri Sep 11, 2009

S.Africa, EU sign trade deal, to bridge Doha gaps

By Wendell Roelf

KLEINMOND, South Africa (Reuters) — South Africa and the European Union on Friday signed an amended trade, development and co-operation agreement and also pledged to intensify work to bridge gaps preventing conclusion of Doha trade talks.

Political leaders have called repeatedly for conclusion to the stalled World Trade Organisation’s Doha talks, launched in 2001 to help developing countries grow by opening trade.

"We remain committed to reaching an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda in 2010 in line with the developmental mandate that underpins the round," a joint communique issued at an EU-South Africa summit said.

"To this end, we agree to intensify work to bridge the remaining gaps in the negotiations as soon as possible, building on progress already achieved," the communique said.

South Africa is among emerging nations that have urged wealthier countries to take the lead in removing trade barriers, saying poorer states are harder hit by the global economic crisis.

"We share a concern that the global economic crisis will hamper efforts to achieve the Millenium Development Goals and therefore reaffirm the urgent need for delivery of development assistance commitments made," the communique said.

It said the Group of 20 developed and emerging countries should pursue macroeconomic and structural policies consistent with more balanced and sustainable global growth and equitable development.

The EU is South Africa’s largest trading partner and officials hope the amended Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) will boost cooperation between the European grouping and Africa’s strongest economy as the recession hurts exports and balance of payments.

Official data shows the TDCA, signed in 1999 and fully implemented in 2004, had pushed bilateral trade to some 424 billion rand in 2008 from 56.6 billion rand in 1994 when South Africa held its first democratic elections and started a process of trade liberalisation.

"I look forward to the impetus that today’s signing will give to our bilateral relationship," South African President Jacob Zuma said.

 source: Reuters