Namibia asks EU to ‘step back’

The Namibian | 17.09.2010

Namibia asks EU to ‘step back’

By: JO-MARÉ DUDDY

NAMIBIA has called on the European Union (EU) to “take a step backwards from the current excessive demands in the economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations to allow Africa the policy space which it requires to advance its development”.

Speaking at the Parliamentary High-level Conference on EU-Africa in Brussels, Peter Katjavivi, Swapo Chief Whip in the National Assembly (NA), on Wednesday called for greater understanding by the EU towards Africa, “as the consequences [of the EPA] will greatly affect Africa, far more than Europe”.

The EPA negotiations, which would grant Namibian beef, fish and grapes tariff and quota free access to EU markets, have been dragging on for eight years. Namibia has provisionally initialled the agreement, but insists that the EU treat the country as an equal partner and put certain agreed concessions about food security, infant industry protection, free flow of goods and export taxes in writing before signing the final EPA.

Another main concern of Angola, Namibia and South Africa (Ansa) – the only countries in the SADC EPA configuration who have not signed the interim EPA yet – is that it will undermine regional integration.

Katjavivi, speaking on behalf of NA Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab in the Belgium capital, said it was clear that “what the EU demands at this point will not provide for greater equity”. Rather, it will perpetuate Africa’s level of underdevelopment, he said.

“We would like to see significantly more measured approaches in the negotiations between Europe and the developing world with respect to issues raised around [the] EPAs. We would like to emphasise that developing countries should not be made worse-off after the conclusion of these negotiations,” Katjavivi said.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said in July that the EU has “no intention to put undue pressure” on Namibia to sign and implement an economic partnership agreement.

De Gucht wrote a letter to trade activist Marc Maes, who in June petitioned him to back off, saying he took “careful note of the points and concerns” made.

The petition, which Maes compiled on behalf of 15 international non-governmental organisations, expressed the group’s concern “over the undue pressure on the Government of Namibia to sign the interim EPA while negotiations on the SADC EPA are still ongoing and contentious issues still remain outstanding”.

“Namibia’s concerns about the content of the initialed text are fully legitimate and should be respected by the EU,” Maes, the trade policy officer of the Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, said at the time.

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source: The Namibian