By Emma Kakololo
Frustration is mounting, clouding relations between the European Union (EU), Namibia as well as South Africa, in negotiations for economic partnership agreements (EPAs) between the EU and Southern African Development Community (SADC) group.
Namibia and South Africa were the only two countries of the SADC group that did not sign EPAs for a new trade deal with the EU on Friday.
Inconclusive trade negotiations would lead to the expiry of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) waiver, which allowed trade between the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) and the EU to continue under the preferential terms of the Cotonou Agreement.
Both parties are expected to finalise EPAs as from January next year.
In the Southern African context, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland are most at risk, given that the other members of the SADC EPA are considered least developed (LDC).
The non-LDC categorisation excludes them from access to European markets as part of the “Everything but Arms” initiative.
This means they are expected to enter into new contractual reciprocal free trade agreements in the form of EPAs to be compatible with WTO rules.
According to a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute Namibia could face the steepest tariffs jump – over 50 percent by value of its current exports to the EU – upon signing.
On the other hand, Namibia also stands to lose around N$675 million per year at the end of the current EU preferences. This amount is equivalent to more than four times the money Namibia receives annually under the 9th European Development Fund.
David O’Sullivan, Director General of the EC Trade Commission in a statement said the EU appreciates the fact “that some countries may not feel able or ready to take this course” but assured that “Europe’s door remains open to engage and discuss the way forward together”.