WINDHOEK – Southern African Development Community (SADC) integration is compounded by the ongoing Economic Partnership Agreements’ (EPAs) trade negotiations between the European Union (EU), a SADC official said on Wednesday.
Barney Karuuombe, the manager for Parliamentary Capacity-Development at SADC, said the EPAs have instead served to divide the region, instead of uniting and integrating it.
Karuuombe, who is also a Commissioner for Elections at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), was speaking during the launch of the ‘Monitoring Regional Integration in Southern Africa 2011 Yearbook’ in the capital.
Only countries classified as least-developed will benefit from the ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) scheme of the EPAs.
“Namibia and Botswana, for instance, will regress to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which will grant an unfavourable market access to the European market, compared to what we currently enjoy,” he noted.
The GSP excludes beef and table grapes, which are important export products to the EU from Namibia.
Karuuombe added that it was important that SADC and the entire developing community maintain the unity and solidarity they had during the stalled Doha Round of World Trade Negotiations, and then the EPAs’ divide-and-rule effect would not achieve much.
“We, therefore, as a region and continent, need to redouble our commitment to true integration and development for our impoverished communities,” he stressed.
Karuuombe further noted that the noble ideals for SADC’s development blueprint, namely the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose development targets should be achieved by 2015, will only be achieved if SADC speaks more as a community and less as individual states.
The deadline to sign the EPA is January 1 2014.
He said should Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia not have a comprehensive EPA by this deadline, they will no longer benefit from ‘somewhat favourable’ market access to the European market. – Nampa