After 10 years of preparations and negotiations, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the European Union was ‘initialled’ by the Chief Negotiators on July 15. The initialling of the Agreement signals that the negotiations are concluded. The EU has assured SADC that the act of initialling ensures that the current market access will continue until the agreement enters into force. Isabelle Ramdoo, Deputy Head of the Economic Transformation and Trade Programme adds her comments to the deal.
“The South African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) group, although not fully representative of the regional grouping, finally agreed on a deal after key concerns regarding agricultural safeguards and export taxes were addressed. This deal at least preserves the unity of its customs union, the South African Customs Union,” she said.
More interestingly, South Africa managed to significantly improve its duty free access to the European market while at the same time locking the protection of the names of some specialised agricultural products, through a protocol on Geographical Indications.
Meanwhile ,The Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministers met in Lusaka on Monday July 21, 2014 to receive the outcome of studies conducted by COMESA CTA on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) impact assessment studies. During the meeting, it was evident that the unilateral deadline of October 2014 set by the EU for all ESA countries who have not yet signed the EPA is highly unattainable. Clearly, there are unresolved issues which need intense consultations through negotiations to resolve and countries will need to study the impact assessment reports hence ESA countries agreed to reconvene in Madagascar in September. Zambia reiterated its commitment to the EPA negotiations but stated that the use of export taxes remains cardinal in fostering the industrialization process. The Union has further added that the use of instant agriculture safeguards should also be dealt with.