By Catherine Sasman
Namibia initialed the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the European Union on December 12. This was preceded by an agreement by the Namibian Government during the first week in December that it would not initial the IEPA. Independent trade analyst, Willie Roux comments on the Government’s decision and eventual initialing of the IEPA.
Why, in your view, did the Namibian Government originally announce that it would not initial the EPA?
During the negotiations with the EU in 2007, the Government encountered a list of unresolved issues that could have a detrimental effect on the long-term economic development of the country and because these issues remained unresolved until the last round of negotiations, the Government then decided not to initial the IEPA.
What made the Government change its mind to eventually initial the IEPA on December 12 last year?
During the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon (December last year 8 and 9), the president of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso, gave an assurance that during 2008 the contentious provisions of the IEPA would be opened for renegotiation.
The Government then decided to initial the IEPA with an accompanying statement containing a prerequisite that the initialing is contingent on the assurance that the unresolved issues encountered during 2007 be opened for renegotiation in an effort to find a mutual solution.
The initialing of the IEPA by the Government means that Namibian exports would have duty-free, quota-free access to EU markets as from the beginning of this year. Is this a guaranteed situation for Namibian exports?
No, it is not. It is true that from January 1, 2008 Namibian exports would have duty free, quota free access to the EU markets, but this is also an interim measure. This was confirmed on December 20 last year when the European Council approved a regulation to reserve duty free, quota free access to EU markets from 2008 for those ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] countries that initialed the IEPA.
In the latest Meatco newsletter of November/December 2007 (Volume 23, Number 8) an announcement was made to the beef producers that the market access to the EU would continue in 2008, but it does not mention anything about an interim measure. Any comments on this?
I have read the specific article, which actually portrays a very negative scenario of what Meatco is anticipating if the Government had kept its original decision not to initial the IEPA. However, the announcement of continued market access to the EU is misleading without mentioning the accompanying statement to the initialed IEPA, because it could create false hopes among the producers.
If the continued market access to the EU is an interim measure, what timeframe should be coupled to it?
All EPA negotiations after the original initialing of IEPAs need to be finalised by the end of 2008.
What if the Government would be unable to resolve the contentious provisions of the IEPA by the end of 2008?
The logical next step would be for the Government not to ratify the final EPA.
This would then mean that the interim arrangements would expire at the end of 2008 and Namibia would not be a member of the final EPA, which means the duty free, quota free market access to the EU would seize to exist.
Would such a scenario mean the effective termination of preferential market access to the EU?
Not necessarily. Namibia would be eligible to apply for membership to the EU’s GSP+ [Generalised System of Preferences Plus] in 2009. The GSP+ does not contain all the benefits of the EPA, but it still provides for preferential market access. However, before Namibia would be eligible for GSP+ membership, the country still needs to ratify two required international treaties.
Given that the initialing of the IEPA is not a long-term guarantee for duty free, quota free access to EU markets, what should the Namibian export sectors do to ensure future export markets?
The main agricultural exports from Namibia currently are beef and grapes, including fish as well.
The grape and fish sectors are in a more fortunate position in terms of alternative export markets, albeit still not the ideal situation. However, the beef export sector is facing major challenges during 2008 and beyond.
Since 1990, when Namibia became a member of the Lomǟ