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South Africa, EU agree to prioritize EU-SADC EPA negotiations

XINHUA | 2011-9-16

South Africa, EU agree to prioritize EU-SADC EPA negotiations

HAZYVIEW, South Africa Sept. 15 (Xinhua) — South Africa and the European Union (EU) said on Thursday that they will give priority to concluding the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

"We share the objective to conclude, as soon as possible, a final agreement that will enhance trade and economic relations between EU and the SADC EPA countries, which supports development and regional integration in southern Africa," South African President Jacob Zuma told journalists after the fourth South Africa-EU summit held in Skukuza Venue of Kruger National Park.

"We are both very optimistic that the negotiations are going to go forward," Zuma said.

The EU-SADC EPA is a single negotiated agreement governing how the two regions will cooperate on a wide range of trade-related issues.

Negotiations on the EPA began formally in 2004 in Windhoek, Namibia. The countries which have decided to negotiate an EPA with the EU under the SADC configuration are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania.

South Africa participated in an observatory and supportive capacity.

Bilateral trade between South Africa and EU continues to grow. EU account for 35 percent of South Africa’s total imports and 28 percent of its total exports, the joint communiqué said.

Namibia, South Africa and Angola are the only three countries out of seven in the SADC-EPA configuration group that have not yet signed the controversial interim agreement.

Other countries have already signed, with Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland inking the interim agreement in 2009, a move which threatened to split the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) at the time.

A source close to the talks said that both sides had cleared the main hurdles to concluding a trade deal, though no signing date could be set, South African Press Association reported.

 source: Xinhua