Evanos Casella, the European Commission chief negotiator in the ongoing SADC- EU economic partnership agreement, poured praises on Botswana for showing strong leadership ahead of the second round of negations which start next month.
The EU and its trading partners from the Africa Caribbean and Pacific countries are engaged in marathon negotiations aimed at formalizing their trade agreement to comply with the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation.
The new development will replace the old trade agreement which guaranteed the 78 poor ACP countries access to the EU markets without any reciprocity. Further, the asymmetric agreement will ensure that goods from ACP countries enter the EU markets duty free.
“Botswana has shown strong leadership in these negotiations. It is one of the first countries from the SADC region to initial the agreement,” the Italian negotiator, Casella said.
EU-SADC are meeting in Brussels between May 19 and 21 to try to push the initialed agreement towards signing and ultimately ratification before the end of the year. SADC countries, which have initialed are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique and Swaziland. However, South Africa has refused but stated that it is committed to the process by continuing with negotiation though it has not initialed. South Africa has raised some concerns related to the protection of its infant industries ÔÇô especially the fledgling diamond polishing industryÔÇöwhere it imposes export duty.
“Initialing is a very important step but now we have to move towards signing. And that has to be done before June so that we can start the process of implementation,” he said, adding that Namibia has raised some objections.
“Namibia is putting itself in a very difficult position. It has initialed but now is coming up with some objections. They have to understand that we can not listen to their concerns if they are not submitted through SADC. We are not negotiating with a country but the region that is what we told them,” he said.
Namibia is also trying to protect its fledgling diamond polishing and its long term interests on the development of uranium. However, the EPAs agreements are asymmetrical as part of the plan to ensure that developing countries infant industries are protected. The move will ensure that within the next 15 years developing countries’ industries have consolidated before WTO imposes a mandatory law of free trade across the world.