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Monday, 20 November 2017

One year after enacting the EU-South African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), officials from the EU and South Africa gathered in Johannesburg to review its progress and consider next steps. The EU-SADC EPA entered into force in October 2016, and is designed to be an asymmetrical, development-oriented agreement. The accord has been signed by six of the 15 SADC members, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. The EPA grants all of those countries, with the exception of South Africa, duty-free, quota-free access to the European market, while improving market access for Johannesburg. The 28-nation EU ranks as the largest trading partner for these countries, with European Commission statistics placing imports at over €30 billion in minerals, metals, and other products in 2015.

Speaking to the press after the first round of talks at the EU summit on Thursday (19 October), Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that EU action was “reaching its limits” due to insufficient financing. “We are reaching our limits when it comes to this Emergency Trust Fund for Africa,” Juncker said. “We started by saying that we would take €1.8bn in our hands in order to be helpful to Africa, then we increased this to €2.5, then to €2.9, then to €3.1bn, money the Commission was providing by restructuring the existing budget. Member states have so far committed €175m, this is clearly not enough,” he stated.

The EU is set to import a record volume of bananas this year as consumption continues to rise across the continent. The 28 countries of the EU imported some 6.1 million tonnes of bananas in 2016, up from 5.9mt in 2015 and 5.4mt in 2014. That represents an average four per cent growth rate since 2012, and a 21 per cent increase since 2006. That trend is set to continue with five per cent growth in imports recorded for the first quarter of 2017 versus the same period the year before, according to figures presented at the International Banana Congress by Carolina Dawson of French research centre Cirad.

Africa and Europe have long-standing relations, based in particular on a series of agreements between the European Union (EU) and the group of 79 ACP countries (Sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean, Pacific). The Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000 for 20 years, kept the structure of its predecessors, from a time when Europe was negotiating with its former African colonies. It rests on three pillars: development cooperation, trade relations and political dialogue. It is urgent to realise that the context of cooperation has changed radically and that our partnership with Africa is out of date. Even more importantly, we need to wake up to what Africans expect from us.

The Guyana-Based Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) has introduced four new online platforms to promote trade and develop the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (MEUC). Supported by European Union (EU), CARICOM launched the Online Business Registries of the regional bloc; a Labor Market Information System; and the CARREX platform with a public online portal. CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRoque, explained in the presentation that the Online Business Registers provide partners with the search and reservation of names for the registration of entities, payment and e-signature.

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