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Wednesday, 04 August 2010

EU Backs Off on EPA

European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has appeased leading European civil society organisations about the negotiations for a Southern African economic partnership agreement (EPA), promising "not to put undue pressure" on countries. According to Marc Maes, trade policy officer at 11.11.11, the move signals an "EPA-fatigue" in Europe. 11.11.11, the Flemish North-South Movement working against poverty, protested about the European Commission’s treatment of Namibia. "The EU has no intention to put undue pressure on Namibia to sign and implement the interim EPA," de Gucht wrote in a response to a Jun 18 letter by 30 influential European civil society organisations (CSOs).  Negotiations for an EPA have dragged on since 2002 when the Cotonou agreement redefined trade relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries according to World Trade Organisation (WTO) directives. In their letter the CSOs argued that Namibia is put under severe pressure by the Europeans to move forward with the negotiations, to the detriment of their development goals. "The signing of the interim EPA would have serious impacts on agricultural and industrial development in Namibia. Among other consequences the country would have to forfeit the policy option of using export taxes on raw materials and an important incentive for value addition of raw materials and as a potentially important new source of income," noted the CSOs.  In his reply de Gucht tried to allay their concerns, stating: "The EU will continue to engage with Namibia, as well as with the whole SADC EPA group in a constructive spirit as in the past. The objective is to negotiate an agreement that serves the region’s best interest." SADC stands for the Southern African Development Community. The commissioner also emphasised the benefits of duty-and-tariff free access for the countries of the region.  But, according to Maes, the realisation has dawned in Europe that the negotiations need to be concluded before the Third Africa-EU summit in November 2010 in Libya.

Source: Inter Press News Service Agency

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