EU And SADC Sign EPA Deal To Safeguard Agriculture Sector

Written by Staff

By Mpho Tebele  | From The Southern Times

SADC-EPA members have ensured the safeguard of the agricultural sector ahead of the implementation of the EPA with the EU, allaying fears that a deluge of products from advanced EU industries could crowd out infant industries in the region.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) and European Union (EU) signed the operationalisation of phase one of the two parties’ Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in Kasane town in north-eastern Botswana on June 10.

There have been concerns that the conclusion of negotiations, which lasted for almost a decade, could result in EU’s advanced industries crowding out the infant industries in the region, especially those in the agricultural sector.

But it has since emerged that through the negotiations Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland Mozambique, Namibia have secured a provision that allows for a 12-year period of protection for their infant industries from competition from advanced EU industries that will be exporting to the region.

The provision would protect 23 of the 54 product lines covered by the EPA.

Speaking on the sidelines of a symposium in Gaborone, Chief Trade officer in Botswana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, Gemma Mbegabolawe said SADC countries had offered the EU only 23 out of the 67 agricultural trade items requested by the EU.

“SADC-EPA member states have secured a specific agricultural safeguard in addition to the bilateral safeguard given the sensitivity of the agricultural sector,” she said.

Mbegebolawe said the agricultural safeguard would be easier to implement as it will be triggered by an increase in import levels, that is, the SADC-EPA group does not have the burden to prove that they are being affected by the EU products.

She added that the signing of the agreement aims to promote gradual integration of SADC-EPA states into the global economy while improving the SADC-EPA states’ trade polices, strengthening regional integration and improving relations between the two parties.

Reports indicate that the timing is significant because it prompts the 1 October deadline imposed by the EU after which Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland would have lost preferential access to the EU market for the export of fish, beef and sugar on which their economies depend heavily.

Read more at The Southern Times