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SD urged to lead EPA negotiations

The Swazi Observer, Swaziland

SD urged to lead EPA negotiations

By Thabile Masuku

14 June 2007

The country has been urged to play a leading role in the finalisation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Speaking during the Europe Day held at Ezulwini yesterday, Ambassador and head of delegation to Lesotho and Swaziland Beck Christiansen said the finalisation of the EPA was a major task facing Swaziland, SADC and the European Union.

“The WTO waiver for the trade regime of the Cotonou Agreement expires on 31 December this year and a new system must be in place by then,” Christiansen said, adding that Swaziland, as a middle income country, had a particular interest in the success of these negotiations.

“If there is no trade regime in place Swaziland will fall under the generalised system of preferences which is clearly far less favourable than the current system or the trade offer made by the EU. I invite Swaziland to be more pro-active in ensuring an outcome which is beneficial to your country by convincing your neighbour about your interests which to a high degree will be benefitting South African companies active in Swaziland,” he said.

The ambassador further rejected the notion that the EU was doing this in its self-interest.

“This is done in the interest of developing regional co-operation and to induce countries themselves to create the illusive development through regional trade,” he said.

Christiansen stated that doubt had been sown in certain circles about the EU’s intentions and that this would be benefitting the ACP states.

“The work we are doing to help the 18 sugar industry countries, including Swaziland, should be proof enough about our seriousness of assisting in a difficult transition period. We will do likewise once we have agreed on this EPA,” he said.

The EU recently announced a sugar market reform which will reduce the EU (and ACP exporter) sugar process by 36 percent. The country will benefit from this special measure as one of the 18 ACP sugar protocol countries.

The EU will be assisting the country on an annual basis. Last year, the EU pumped in 4.7 million Euros (about E45million) and this year the money increased to 15 million Euros (E140m).

“Similar amounts can be expected until 2013,” Christiansen said.