Union Has Potential to Grow Economies
By Sefhako Sefhako
Kasane — European Union Commissioner for trade, Ms Cecilia Malmstrom has hailed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for having an enormous potential as it could improve the lives of the people of SADC by connecting them to the global economy.
She said the EPA would reinforce economic integration within the region and beyond thus boosting investment.
Ms Malmstrom who was speaking at the EU-SADC EPA signing ceremony in Kasane on Thursday said the agreement could only benefit the region if everyone involved worked together to turn opportunities into realities.
“As we sign this agreement today, let us all commit to doing everything in our power to put it in practice,” she said.
The comprehensive EPA, which took 10 years to conclude was initiated to correct the shortcomings of the trade chapter of the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries which was non-compliant with the World Trade Organization (WTO) provisions as it did not provide for reciprocal trade between the two.
The new EPA provides duty free and quota free market access to Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland (BLMNS), while South Africa on the other hand will have improved preferential treatment for their products.
Ms Malmstrom said the EPA was much more than symbolism as it had the potential to boost growth and support prosperity across the region by helping SADC economies integrate into the world economy through investment and trade.
Through the EPA, she said the region would access EU single market of 500 million consumers, the largest market in the world.
“That is a huge incentive for anyone who wants to invest in an exporting business in any of your countries and create jobs,” observed the EU Trade commissioner.
For his part, the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr Vincent Seretse, said the agreement was premised on the objectives of supporting the long term vision of economic growth, diversification and transformation for the region.
He further admitted that the EU-SADC EPA negotiations were complex and covered a broad array of issues which required not only lengthy discussions but intense and in-depth consideration of issues in a holistic manner.
However, a representative of the EU presidency, Ms Marrisa Gerards said the EPA was in many ways a response to the changed global economic context. She said they saw trade and investment with African countries increasing and the relative importance of traditional aid diminishing rapidly.
“New arrangements for forging inclusive and sustainable economic growth are on the rise,” she observed.
Ms Gerards emphasised the commitment of EU and its member states for the implementation of this economic partnership agreement.
While the agreement was signed, she said there were still a number of steps outstanding for the agreement to formally enter into force.
Ms Gerards said on the EU side the European Parliament would be asked to give its consent after which the EU member states would ratify the agreement.
“I am confident that we will keep on having an excellent cooperation between us and that together we will ensure a smooth implementation of the agreement to our mutual benefit.”
Another speaker, Mr Ernosto Tonela, who is Mozambique’s minister of Industry and Trade, praised the agreement as it would impact positively on the current and future generations of the SADC region.
He said the commitment made by the two parties aimed not only at correcting the inadequacies of the past trading arrangements between EU and six SADC EPA states but strengthening and consolidating future economic relations between the two parties.
He underscored that the commitment to strengthen the regional integration agenda as stipulated in the agreement was in line with the objectives of SADC regional indicative strategic development plan, as the agreement provides to support the long term vision growth for the region.
Source : BOPA