SADC appoints Botswana to co-ordinate EPA negotiations

SADC appoints Botswana to co-ordinate EPA

Daily News | Gabarone | 19 March 2004

GABORONE - SADC has appointed Botswana to co-ordinate the first phase of negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

Jacob Nkate, trade and industry minister, said in Gaborone that the country was given the task during a recent SADC ministers of trade meeting in Tanzania.

The first phase of the negotiations is expected to last two years, he said at the launch of the National Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations at BEDIA offices.

Nkate said at the multilateral level Botswana is engaged at a new Round of WTO negotiations, the Doha Development Round, which was launched in November 2001.

"This round opened most of the WTO agreements for negotiation in a bid to address the development concerns of developing countries." Under SACU, Nkate said negotiations for a free trade area with the United States were launched in June 2003 and are expected to conclude in December 2004.

"The SACU member states have also launched negotiations for a SACU/European Free Trade Area-Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and with Brazil, Agentina, Uraguay and Paraguay for a SACU/MERCOSUR Free Trade Area." The minister said there are plans in SACU to negotiate trade agreements with India, China, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.

Work is on-going on the SACU Agreement signed in October 2002 to develop common policies in agriculture, industry, competition and Unfair Trade Practices.

Nkate said the international trade agenda has over the years expanded and become very complex.

This is because negotiations now cover areas such as trade in services, Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), labour standards, competition policy, investment, trade facilitation and government procurement.

"It, therefore, transcends the competencies of the ministries of Trade and Industry ; Agriculture ; and Finance and Development Planning." Nkate explained that the committee will address international trade policy matters in a comprehensive manner and provide a forum through which the Ministry of Trade and Industry can effectively achieve goals and targets set to be accomplished during NDP9.

"The committee will among other things, be expected to promote constructive dialogue among government institutions, the business sector, labour, academia and the civil society on bilateral and multilateral trade issues.

This will be done in fora such as the WTO, SADC, SACU and Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to facilitate Botswana’s efficient and effective participation in trade negotiations." The committee will "analyse trade issues and their impact on the economy ; formulate appropriate national trade policy and negotiation positions and make recommendations to Cabinet on these.

It will also facilitate effective implementation and enforcement of Botswana’s rights and obligations under the WTO and other trading regimes.

Nkate said among the terms of reference for the committee is the need to address, in an efficient and co-ordinated manner, national capacity building for international trade policy and negotiations.

"This capacity should be developed not only in government ministries, but also in the private sector, to effectively utilise preferential market access opportunities provided by the preferential trade arrangements we continue to negotiate," Nkate said.

- BOPA

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