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Key deadline looms in EPA talks for SADC

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Friday, 12 August 2011

Key deadline looms in EPA talks for SADC

A market access regulation giving SADC states, including Botswana, duty and quota-free access to the European Union is expected to elapse soon, potentially squeezing the affected states out of the world's biggest market for beef, minerals, textiles and other products, BusinessWeek has learnt.

However, Botswana will fall back on a 2009 interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) it signed with the EU, which will limit the potentially devastating effects of losing the EU market. It was revealed this week that the market access regulation, drafted and made available to the African states by the EU in January 2008, could expire within two years, leaving several countries in the cold. The regulation's expiry is linked to the "inordinate delay" in the finalisation of a comprehensive EPA between the EU and SADC states.

The EU's outgoing Head of Section (Politics, Trade, Press and Information), Lena Sund, told BusinessWeek the regulation was a transitory arrangement put in place while a full agreement was being worked out. "The regulation is a bridging facility put in place between the Cotonou Agreement and the iEPA," Sund explained. "It is what allowed Botswana and other countries duty and quota-free access to the EU. […]

It is understood high-level European Commission discussions on termination of the market access regulation are directly influenced by the dimming prospects for an early finalisation of a full EPA. On the state of play, Sund said current negotiations were focussed on tariff issues between the EU and South Africa which, once resolved, would allow for other SADC members to re-start the end-game towards a full EPA.

Source: Mmegi Online