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Tuesday, 06 July 2010

The end of EPA acrimony may be in sight

Southern African trade ministers have pledged to sign a significantly scaled down economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) before the end of 2010. Could this be the conclusion to years of divisive negotiations? It was a mere sentence in the draft minutes of the meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers in Gaborone on Jun 17: "Ministers noted the strategy proposed by senior officials aimed at concluding an inclusive EPA by the end of 2010."  A timeline in the document then outlines the signing of "an inclusive EPA" and its notification to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the end of the year. After the skirmishes around the controversial trade pact - that spells out a reciprocal tariff regime on goods between the countries and the EU - the decision may seem sudden. As recent as May 2010, Namibian trade minister Hage Geingob defended the country’s opposition to the EPA in parliament, accusing the EU of "bullying" its much smaller southern African counterparts. While significant progress was made during a high level technical negotiating session in Brussels in early May, there are still some significant issues outstanding that could see signing pushed into next year. Independent trade policy analyst Wallie Roux, based in Windhoek, told IPS he assumes that the December 2010 deadline will be missed.

Source: Inter Press News Service Agency