’It Took Us Time to Understand Namibia On Epa’

Namibia’s hesitancy to sign the European Union (EU)’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) had at first left Europe perplexed. “They told us they need policy space for development and it took some time [for us] to understand,” said the Head of European Union Delegation to Namibia, Ambassador Raul Fuentes Milani, as he narrated the to and fro negotiations on EPA that started in 2007.

Negotiations on EPA have successfully ended and the parties are waiting to sign the document sometime this year.

The EPA document, to which Namibia agreed in July 2014, would not only give Namibia duty and quota-free access to the European Union but has included provisions that take into consideration Namibia’s own economic agenda for local development and regional integration.

Milani spoke to New Era this week on the European Union’s EPA with Namibia.

Namibia rejected the first EPA text, sending EU negotiators back empty, and starting what was to become a bargaining process that saw both sides disregarding the deadline in a push to get the best out of the EPA. Namibia’s stance was clear on the need to have policy space for development and in the end the EU negotiator understood the rationale.

Milani cited the case of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states members, in EPA with the EU, who export bananas and automotive items, which do not interest Namibia and cannot be counted among the benefits for the country.

Thus the second EPA text has been “complemented with specific measures to assist Namibia’s development needs”.

“If Namibia needs to apply safeguard measures to protect the economy, they need to do it fast, effectively and quickly. They should not have to wait for a meeting to be convened sometime somewhere,” said Milani.

Another provision in the agreed EPA is the reality of regional integration for Namibia to pursue other tripartite economic alliances as her economy may require. “The treaty accords Namibia to have bilateral treaties,” Milani says.

The European Union and Namibia have wrapped up the EPA negotiations, and are expected to sign the agreement later this year, as the EU intensifies its involvement with Namibia. Milani revealed this at a reception marking the European Day celebrations held at the EU Residence in Windhoek on Friday last week.

“We have finalised negotiations and are ready to sign sometime this year,” said Milani adding that the co-operation, once officially announced, would “open a new page in economic relations”.

“The idea is to change the current situation, based on un-bilateral concessions by the EU, into a bilateral understanding,” said Milani on the new direction of the EPA.

Source : New Era