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SADC EPA negotiations remain stalled, but optimism expressed

August 28, 2013

In July 2013, the EC Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, visited Namibia, Botswana and South Africa to move the EPA negotiations forward. Current outstanding issues from the EUSADC EPA configuration perspective include:

  • export taxes;
  • establishing a balance in agricultural market access offers;
  • rules of origin for fisheries products;
  • agricultural safeguard provisions.

The EU Trade Commissioner highlighted the EUs willingness to offer measures for infant industries and food security safeguards, but stressed that the EU was looking for improved agricultural market access from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The EC sees the current SACU market access offer as falling short of what is needed to mobilise political support for the conclusion of the negotiations. According to press reports, the EU had requested market access for 67 tariff lines, but South Africa only conceded on 20 lines and put tariff rate quotas on some of them. Issues related to market access for EU food and agricultural exports and the details of the agricultural safeguard provisions are seen as being closely interlinked.

Namibias Permanent Secretary for Trade, Malan Lindeque, once again stressed that Namibia would only sign a winwin agreement that accommodated [the] circumstances of each country. Representatives of the Namibian Agricultural Trade Forum, meanwhile, expressed concerns that nothing has changed in Brussels that would close the deal.

Addressing the EUSouth Africa Business Forum in Pretoria on 17 July, the EU Trade Commissioner maintained that the EUSouth Africa Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) [had] been a success, with trade having increased steadily since 2000 from 26 billion to 46 billion. Mr De Gucht further argued that the EU had liberalised many more lines than South Africa.

Specifically with regard to agricultural trade, the Commissioner pointed out that South Africa hashad a steady surplus in trade in agricultural goods. He argued forcefully that no agreement would be acceptable unless it provided meaningful market access for European operators. He said that he [would] not go to EU member states that are badly hit by the economic crisis without having something to offer them in return for increased competition from South Africa.

Also in July, Namibia Dairies formally applied to the Namibian Ministry of Trade and Industry for the introduction of quantitative restrictions on imports of dairy products, notably fresh, extended shelf life (ESL) and UHT milk, and a range of fermented milk products. The Manager of Research and Development at the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) maintained that Botswana and Swaziland already have similar quantitative restrictions in place in their dairy sectors. The proposal from Namibian Dairies seeks to limit imports to a specified percentage of the market, but the NAU considered that the move would help local dairy farmers [but] should not kill off competition (see Agritrade article Discussions on dairy sector safeguard measures in Namibia intensify, forthcoming 2013).