11 Jul 2011 - Story by Desie Heita
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LUBANGO - The ban on Namibian cement into Angola could be lifted by year-end, says the Angolan Minister of Commerce Dr Maria Idalina de Oliveira Valente.
But Angola is only going to ease import restriction for normal or all-purpose cement. The moratorium on importation of other types of cement would remain in place until the two countries sort out issues of rules of origin, and the joint commission on trade becomes more active in facilitating the flow of communication between the two governments.
Angola slapped a moratorium on the importation of a host of products, from cement products, fresh produce including fish and the importation of second hand vehicles.
The moratorium went into effect beginning June.
New Era understands that following the expose on the cement ban, a fortnight ago, the Angolan authorities provided Namibian trading authorities with an exhaustive list of items affected by the moratorium, a list believed to be in excess of 50 items.
De Oliveira Valente and the Cunene regional director for customs Eduardo Lutemod say the moratorium on cement "is specifically on the type of cement being imported and the definition of who qualifies to be an importer of cement [into Angola]".
However, following intense discussions between Namibia's Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Hage Geingob and various Angolan ministers, specifically Dr Valente, Angola agreed to ease import restrictions on Namibian goods as soon as possible.
"I am sure we will find a solution to the issue of cement by year end. But this is going to be for normal cement [all purpose cement] but for other types of cement, no," said Dr Valente.
Namibian businesses were shocked to see their consignment of cement turned away at the border due to the new moratorium on cement, which the Angolan authorities did not communicate ahead of time to the Namibian authorities.
Some of the consignments were on order by Angolan clients. Of serious concern was how the moratorium would affect the newly commissioned Ohorongo Cement, which was counting on exporting to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo its excess production.
With annual production of more than 700 000 tonnes of cement per year against the local consumption of approximately 350 000 tonnes, Ohorongo needs alternative export markets to sustain the plant.
Dr Valente emphasised the need for Namibia and Angola to sort out issues of rules of origin, and to have an active joint commission on trade, to avoid such trade embarrassments in future.
"I believe there is still much we should do, particularly looking at rules of origins for goods [our countries] exchange," she said.
Rules of origin are World Trade Organisation accepted criteria for determining the national source of a product. They are quite important for countries to determine which parties to exclude from import duties, import bans and moratoriums, since duties and restrictions are often dependant on the source of imports. Dr Valente said the Angolan government wants to boost trade with Namibia, and is specifically looking at tapping into opportunities created by the port of Walvis Bay.
She said the railway project between the two countries is expected to reach Menogue, in Cuando Cubango province, creating a faster transport route from that side of Angola into the port of Walvis Bay.
"We are preparing to have capacity for inward and outward goods using the Port of Walvis Bay and our view is that we should reach Menogue with our railway by August.
Our people must develop together, and given the reconstruction programme, the regions along the borders have to work together, with easy import and exports between Angola and Namibia," she said.