By Catherine Sasman
The delegation of the European Commission in Namibia said there is no reference to an end date in the market access regulation of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) that was initialled by Namibia late last year.
The commission made this remark in response to the New Era article published on January 10, ‘Continued Market Access to the EU: a Secure Scenario?’, in which independent trade analyst Wallie Roux argued that from the beginning of this year Namibian exports would have duty free, quota free access to the EU markets only as an “interim measure” until the end of this year.
This is not correct, said the European Commission’s Dr Elizabeth Pape, saying that “termination” would only be foreseen “in the very specific cases laid down” in an Article of December 20, 2007.
The Article stipulates that a region or state “will remain on the list unless the Council” where it intends does “not … ratify an agreement which has permitted it to be included in Annex 1,” and that “ratification of an agreement which has permitted a region or state to be included in Annex 1 has not taken place within a reasonable period of time such that the entry into force of the agreement is unduly delayed” or the agreement is terminated, “but the agreement otherwise remains in force”.
“This means that Namibia will continue to benefit from the duty free, quota free access to the EU [European Union] market, unless Namibia chooses not to ratify or to delay unreasonably the ratification of the interim agreement, or chooses not to implement its part of the interim agreement’s obligations,” said Pape.
Pape said the Commission is working with the Namibian Government, and private and public sector to support public dialogue during which the substance of the IEPA will be discussed and clarified.
Roux responded by saying that the negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues in the IEPA still needed to be finalized by the end of the year to transform the agreement into a full EPA, “… inter alia to avoid a challenge by other WTO [World Trade Organisation] members”.
He said should a country like Namibia be unable to resolve the outstanding issues by year-end and decide not to ratify the full EPA, then the Council Regulation 1528/2007 would apply and the country would be removed from Annex 1, which means that the full EPA would not be implemented and the duty free, quota free market access to the EU would be terminated.
“On the other hand, should the country decide to ratify the full EPA, duty free, quota free market access would continue.
“However, for the duration of the negotiations in 2008, the IEPA would apply as an interim measure,” Roux said.
In addition, he said, the European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mendelson, admitted at a meeting of December 10, 2007 in Brussels that even the IEPAs could be challenged in the WTO.