The long overdue Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the EU was finally concluded and initialed by the chief negotiators on July 15th.
The timing of the conclusion of these negotiations was a significant as it met the 1st October 2014 which would have seen deadline the republics of Botswana and Namibia and the Kingdom of Swaziland loose preferential access to EU market for their exports, mainly beef (Botswana and Namibia) and sugar Swaziland.
Briefing parliament last week, The Minister of Trade and Industry who was the coordinator of the SADC EPA Group configuration, Dorcus Malesu outlined how Botswana was going to benefit by from the agreement; “Botswana products will access the EU market duty free quota free, that is market forces permitting, Botswana can export as much of its produce to the EU market. The EPA has also managed to preserve the common external tariff which binds the SACU together as all member states have initialed the agreement and will in all likelihood proceed to sign and ratify it.” She said.
“Botswana has also managed to negotiate for retention of exercise of her policy space being able to continue imposing export taxes for products that we would want to keep for purposes of beneficiation. This was one of the long- standing sticky unresolved issues preventing conclusion of the EPA,” she added.
Malesu also announced that Botswana has managed to get agreement from EU that the EU will eliminate export subsidies on agricultural goods destined for the SACU market. The conclusion of the negotiations also provides legal certainty for the business sector which Malesu said is good for development and jobs as investors will be willing to come and invest knowing very well that they have secure market in EU.
Malesu further informed told parliament that the agreement will be subject to legal scrutiny by the SADC, EPA and the EU parties. Thereafter, each state party subjects the agreement to national consultations before seeking the necessary approvals to sign and subsequently ratify the agreement.
It is anticipated that all these processes will take place approximately 6 months for Botswana and between 8 and 12 months for other processes within the group. Negotiations on trade-in services will resume forthwith with a view to completion in the year 2015.