WINDHOEK – With only one year to go before deadline, the finalisation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is increasingly becoming important for Namibia.
In this regard, a meeting is scheduled in a fortnight, where Namibia, along with other smaller member states of the Southern Africa Customs Union, hope to reach consensus with South Africa on outstanding issues that have blocked the signing of the EPA.
Analysts continue to have doubts though on whether the meeting would finally see Namibia sign the EPA negotiations by September this year or April next year.
“I doubt this would be the final decisive meeting,” said Willie Roux, renowned researcher and international trade policy analyst on the upcoming crucial meeting.
What is certain though is that the European Union – already tightening screws to have the EPA concluded as soon as possible – wants the January 2014 deadline enforced and agreed to by all parties.
Even though much of the issues have been addressed, there are a number of items that SACU member states have to consent to among themselves. These include market access for South Africa, something which Namibia and Botswana are particularly wary about as market access agreed to between South Africa and EU have direct impact on their individual economies.
Another important item is the agricultural safeguard measures that touch on all member states. The members are concerned with the concessions that South Africa has made under the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) and possible conflict of interest.
The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) is on record as saying that TDCA consensus, if not well managed, would see European agricultural imports destined for South Africa competing with indigenous agricultural goods in Botswana and Namibia, hence adversely affecting local industries in the two countries.
“How do we know [EU] would compete fairly with our products that have no subsidy?” questioned NCCI.
A full implementation of TDCA means South Africa opening up the market to nearly plus-90 percent of European goods, while the European market would open up to 80-something percent of South African goods.
Whatever the outcome, Namibia and Botswana have to bear in mind that the January 2014 deadline means that they would be erased from the list of countries with market access regulation at the beginning of 2014.
Sadly for Namibia and Botswana, they fall in the developing category. This means they would have to trade with the EU using the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a much less favourable access than they currently enjoy, and less comprehensive coverage.
GSP excludes beef and table grapes that are important exports to the EU from Namibia.
The approach on EPA also has to include the view of regional integration, going beyond SACU to include future trade with entire Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).