German approves of EU and SADC partnership
The German Federal Cabinet late last month approved the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) of the European Union with the SADC member states.
The Agreement guarantees permanent tax and quota free access to the European market for products from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. South Africa, as the most developed country in the region, will receive extended market access to the European market. In return, the above mentioned countries are supposed to open their markets for about 80% of European products over the course of 12 years. As already practiced in other EPAs, products that are locally produced or have added value for the local economy, will remain permanently protected. As an additional protection mechanism, the SADC-EPA countries may defer the liberalization of specific products or increase customs duties, if noticeable damage of the local industry is looming.
Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dr. Gerd Müller said: “This agreement will create new opportunities for economically and socially sustainable development in Southern Africa. Trade barriers will be reduced. This will, for example, make it easier for South African or Namibian farmers to offer their agricultural products to the EU market. The same applies to processed products. Thus we create the conditions for added value in these countries. Only 17% of trade is inner-African while inside the EU it is 45%. We want to help our African partner countries to become more competitive, so that they can participate successfully in the world’s markets. This is an important requirement for a region in Africa whose economy is growing dynamically.”
In addition to the reduction of trade barriers, the agreement contains binding environmental and social standards and gives the European Commission the possibility to demand certain human rights standards.
The agreement is therefore an important instrument in development cooperation for the further cooperation with SADC-EPA countries. The signing by the EU is planned during the session of the Foreign Affairs Council on the 23 of May 2016 in Brussels and by SADC on 10 June 2016 in Gaborone.