By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE-THE Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) came into effect on October 10.
The development-oriented agreement with five southern African countries ensures immediate duty and quota-free access for their exports to the EU market.
The EU Office in Gaborone said Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland and the EU have started a new chapter in their bilateral relations with the entry into effect of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The agreement will apply to trades between the EU and the five SADC countries. It says Mozambique is in the process of ratifying the agreement and will join in as soon as the ratification procedure is completed.
The EPA contains a clause that allow SADC EPA partners to protect their infant industries and let them grow longer in isolation from market forces.
The EU said in a statement that the EPA takes into account the different levels of development of the partners.
It gives Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland duty-free, quota-free access to the European market. South Africa will also benefit from enhanced market access, going beyond its existing bilateral arrangement with the European Union.
On the other hand, the Southern African markets will partially open up to the EU exports, gradually over time, providing their industries with the intermediary goods they need to support growth.
“It also provides for a number of protective measures in these countries, for instance for nascent, fragile industries or for food security reasons. Furthermore, the agreement increases the flexibility of southern African producers to put together products with components from various other countries, without the risk of losing their free access to the EU market,” states the statement.
Angola has observer status and may join the agreement in the future.
The EU is the largest trading partner of the SADC EPA group. In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost €32 billion from the region, mostly minerals and metals. The EU exported goods of nearly the same value, consisting mostly of engineering, automotive and chemical products. Total trade between the EU and the SADC EPA Group (including Angola) amounts to €63 billion.
In signing the agreement, participants committed to act towards sustainable development, including upholding social and environmental standards. Civil society will have a special role in monitoring the impact of the agreement.
The EPA creates joint institutions to support dialogue, smooth handling of all trade issues, and monitoring of the impact of the trade deal. The EU will work with its SADC partners to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement, together with regional and national development cooperation bodies.