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SA envoy clears mist on economic agreements

Botswana Press Agency

SA envoy clears mist on economic agreements

27 March 2008

GABORONE - Short-term benefits brought by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) should not stand in the way of long term prosperity and integration of the SADC region, says South Africas High Commissioner to Botswana, Mr Dikgang Moopeloa.

He was speaking at a media briefing to set the record straight on South Africas position regarding the EPAs.

The South African envoy dispelled what he called misleading articles that have been circulating in the media on why SA has not initialed the economic agreements.

South Africas foreign policy is premised on its domestic policy which prioritizes regional integration, he said.

Mr Moopeloa noted that his countrys agenda on integration is developmental, focusing on infrastructural development and economic integration, rather than the European approach which only allowed member states on board if they complied with a certain set of criteria.

He explained that South Africa has understanding for other SADC EPA member statess need to pursue the EU as a trade market. As a result we are supportive of those countries who took the decision to initial an interim EPA.

On other issues, he explained that South Africa is a player within the region and had voluntarily joined the EPA process for the sake of regional integration.

Furthermore; he argued that SADC EPA group is not an institution that has equal numbers as SADC, the regional block.

He asserted that it would be nave for South Africa to look at short-term benefits and that they never entered SADC as a better partner.

Mr Moopeloa mentioned that trade negotiations by their nature are more difficult and technical than forming a political body.

He also explained that South Africas decision to sign will be informed by material conditions on the ground.

The High Commissioner posited that areas of concern involve technical issues which have to be agreed upon.

He highlighted that some of the specific issues have a broad bearing in the politics of the region.

Commenting on the EPAs, he emphasized that they should not be made superior to other trade negotiations such as the Doha round of talks.

He observed that SADC EPA member states have limited institutional and negotiating capacity, and said that SADC has no common policies on these issues.

Yet interim EPAs contain commitment to negotiate a full EPA and in effect an upfront agreement to accept new disciplines on services and investment.

This, he said, runs the risk of ending with a deal that may be prejudicial and limit national development.

Mr Moopeloa said the Interim agreement, by singling out a handful of countries in SADC; create differential policy and institutional obligations among SACU and SADC member states in relation to the European Commission, adding that it also drives wedges in the ongoing regional integration projects.

He also highlighted that currently South Africa is the only member state with the legal and institutional framework to deal with trade remedies(anti-dumping, subsidies and safeguards).

On other issues, he noted that the interim agreements presumes structures which is not clear on how it interacts with existing SADC structures and is not clear on who will implement them.

The South African envoy explained that the most favoured nation clause is contentious as it calls for any best deal negotiated with anyone other than the EU must be shared with the EU, and vice-versa.

He also highlighted that they have not signed the EPAs because there is no protection for infant industries.

Mr Moopeloa explained that South Africa regards both trade and industrial policies as equals and any clause that favours one over the other will not benefit South Africa and the region.

He said South Africa recently adopted industrial policies which would be harmonized coherently and shared with regional partners. BOPA