June Meeting to Decide On EPA

A meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers is to take place next month to decide on the next step for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between SADC and the European Union (EU).

“[They] are to convene at the regional level as soon as possible to assess the progress in the negotiations, decide on whether a further negotiating session is needed with the EU and the regional approach to the EPAs,” Rejoice Karita, the Senior Trade Aisor of the Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF) reports. “This is likely only to happen in June 2014,” she said, adding that a decision will subsequently be made about where the region stands with regard to the EPAs. Last week a delegation from the European Commission (EC) visited Meatco’s Windhoek abattoir with the aim of getting an overview of how the company fares in adhering to international standards, specifically pertaining to the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system and certification. The EC’s visit to Meatco comes a few months before the October 1 deadline by which Namibia is expected to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EC. At this stage, indications are still unclear on whether or not Namibia would sign.

The last round of negotiations between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group and the European Commission (EC) was held in Brussels, Belgium on March 31 to April 2 this year. According to the ATF, which attended the negotiations, the issue of export duties and agricultural safeguards are not finalised and as such negotiations could not be concluded between the parties. The Namibian beef industry is able to realise huge returns from the EU market, which in turn contributes 50 percent to the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The last meeting agreed that each member state is to report back to their governments regarding the progress reached in the negotiations and each country is to decide on the way forward, considering the outstanding issues.

Namibian beef producers currently enjoy access to the EU without paying duties and without any quota limitations. This allows Namibian cattle and beef production systems to be competitive in the European market. Should Namibia not sign the EPA, Namibian beef producers could lose this free market access and any exports to the EU will require export taxes to be paid for such products – a process that will be very costly for meat export businesses.

Source : New Era