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Southern African region, EU complete negotiations for EPA
28
Jul '14
The chief negotiators of the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) concluded negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) this month, according to a European Commission press release.
 
The agreement takes into account the differences in the level of development between the EU and its African partners, and will open a long-term perspective of duty- and, quota-free access to the EU market for products from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland, while South Africa will trade with the EU on the basis of improved conditions that build on the existing EU-South Africa Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA).
 
The EU, in turn, will gain improved access to the SADC EPA market, particularly in the field of agriculture. Also, when SADC EPA countries will be ready to grant more far-reaching concessions to the Europe's main competitors, the EU will be able to claim those same improvements.
 
“The EU has been strongly committed to ensure that the countries of the SADC EPA group can continue to enjoy free, or in the case of South Africa, preferential access to the EU market, within a stable framework,” said EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht. “While enhancing the development prospects of the region, we are laying the foundation for an economic partnership that is lasting and mutually beneficial. It will be very important to consolidate this achievement by signing and ratifying the EPA as swiftly as possible, and no later than October 2016.”
 
The members of the SADC EPA group will continue being able to shield sensitive sectors from European competitors in their domestic market. In addition, they can invoke a number of safeguards incorporated in the agreement. This will offer them all the necessary flexibility, so that trade can work for and not against development. Following the same logic, the EU has also taken a commitment to refrain from subsidising its agricultural exports to the region.
 
The finalised text of agreement, confirmed already by the chief negotiators, is now going to be presented for signature and ratification according to the domestic procedures of each partner.
 
Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique today enjoy duty-free quota-free access to the EU on a temporary basis provided for in the EU's “Market Access Regulation”. This free access was set to expire on 1 October 2014 because these countries have not ratified the interim agreement they negotiated with the EU in 2007. However, the regional agreement now concluded will replace the existing interim agreement and free access to the EU is based on this new agreement. It will be important to proceed swiftly to signature and ratification to allow the EPA to be provisionally applied as soon as possible.
 
The apparel sector of Swaziland is especially likely to benefit from the new agreement, as it would be able to save around 17,000 textile jobs that it is likely to lose following the loss of benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from January 1, 2015.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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