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Monday, 08 April 2013

EU imposes deadline for signing EPAs

Namibia, and other African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries that have not yet signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) - have just over 18 months to conclude controversial trade negotiations with the European Union or lose its duty- and quota-free access for beef, fish and grapes to EU markets.
Meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) agreed that either all the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries that have not yet signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) sign the pact by 1 October 2014, or they will lose it preferential access to EU markets.
INTA was presented with two dates, that of October 2014 and 1 January 2016. Lobbying by countries like Namibia to get the latter date accepted, however, proved fruitless.
The Namibian newspaper reports about the case of Namibia, which in 2007 provisionally initialed the interim EPA, but has been refusing to sign the agreement until issues regarding unfair competition are resolved. The EPA should not just boost trade, but also sustainable development in Namibia, Government has been maintaining. Namibia also repeatedly complained that the EU is not treating it as an equal partner. According to Wallie Roux, head of research and development at the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), Namibia’s main concerns about the EPA revolve around export taxes, safeguards for the agricultural sector and the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause. The latter will require Namibia to extend the same preferences to the EU it grants to third parties under future trade agreements.
The 2014 deadline is attainable, Roux said. However, Namibia now finds it in the precarious position that it has to conclude the EPA within the time limit and the European Commission (EC) might therefore not accommodate further concessions, he said.
INTA’s decision signalled a turnaround in political will on the side of the EU to get the EPA signed and sealed.
At a trilogue meeting between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU earlier in March 2013 was decided to impose an EPA deadline of 1 January 2014, with the condition of reconfirmation by the political groups in the European Parliament, followed by a formal adoption of the date by INTA middle of March.

Source: bilaterals.org

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