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Trade bloc ’must reap benefits of EU funds’

Business Day, South Africa

Trade Bloc ’Must Reap Benefits of EU Funds’

By John Kaninda, Johannesburg

3 May 2007

A split among Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries that were also members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries would be detrimental to the region when the European Development Fund decided by year end to roll out development funds for the SADC region, said Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma yesterday.

She was speaking at the close of talks with ACP secretary- general Sir John Rumet Kaputin in Pretoria.

The talks focused on trade and the negotiation of economic partnership agreements with the European Union (EU), development issues and co-operation between SA and the ACP group.

Dlamini-Zuma said SADC members were divided on the best way to negotiate economic partnership agreements with the EU, with some members using their dual membership of the SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa to negotiate as the eastern and southern Africa grouping.

These were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The other countries were negotiating the agreements within the SADC framework.

Dlamini-Zuma said a split would weaken the region’s negotiating power. Countries would benefit differently from funds, with some on the losing side.

"That is why it is important that in the long run SADC countries regroup and negotiate as one so as to reap the benefits of such negotiations."

Kaputin said the ACP was seeking to give SA a greater role within its secretariat.

"SA has shown it has the potential to give hope to ACP countries that they can successfully take on the challenges that the organisation faces," he said.