By Emma Kakololo
Namibia has finally signed the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the European Union (EU).
The country’s Ambassador to the EU, Hanno Rumpf, on Wednesday signed the agreement on condition that concerns that have prompted the country to shy away from signing it in the first place, would be addressed through negotiations towards a comprehensive EPA.
The country’s decision follows further liaison with the European Commission (EC) and discussions during the EU-Africa Summit that took place in Lisbon last weekend.
“Confirmation was obtained from the EC that the IEPA would be revisited during the next stage of negotiations towards a comprehensive EPA,” Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, Bernard Esau, told journalists yesterday.
“Thus providing the opportunity to address concerns that Namibia and other SADC (Southern African Development Community) states, had identified concerning the IEPA,” he added.
Namibia refused to sign on November 29 and was incensed by a demand for most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment, which would see concessions made to some countries in future free trade agreements automatically extended to the EU, and the EC’s insistence on negotiating new generation issues.
The country also cringed at the commission’s request to eliminate export taxes.
However, should the country not have changed its decision not to sign the IEPA, the EU might have introduced GSP duties on Namibian exports to their market from January 1, which would have had negative effects on exports of beef, grapes and fish to the EU.
Operational losses for Meatco, the country’s largest meat producer, should the country have failed to clinch the EU trade deal at the end of this year, were anticipated at N$156.3 million. This translates to a reduction in producer prices of N$4.49 per kg.
The Deputy Trade Minister said by signing the accord, Namibia’s exports would continue to be granted preferential market access into the EU from January next year, while the country together with other states who have initialled the agreement are expected to provide reciprocal market access to the EU no later than July 1.
“Additional information in this regard will be provided to Namibian exporters as soon as possible.
“Namibia will continue to engage other SADC states and the EC to find solutions for issues in the IEPA with long-term detrimental policy implications for Namibia,” he concluded.