Looming EPA Deadline Worries Minister Esau

The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources has urged the fishing sector to market more of Namibian fisheries products to the world.

Esau made the remarks on Thursday at Walvis Bay during his annual stakeholders address where he also raised concern over the looming EPA deadline. A deadline has been set for the end of the duty-free, quota-free market access to the European market.

The deadline for the duty-free, quota-free market access is set at October 1 this year unless an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has been ratified or a full EPA is signed.

According to the minister there was another round of negotiations that took place in February and March this year in South Africa.

The final round will be held in Brussels to conclude the negotiations on substantive dates.

“This looming deadline is a concern for all of us but in the interim we will maintain current preferential market access with the European Union,” Esau explained.

The fishing industry should aggressively embark upon programmes for alternative markets, said Esau.

“Europe should not be the only alternative. Explore Africa, America and home is also a market,” stressed the fisheries minister.

He went on to say the industry would be informed at the right time on some significant issues relevant to the EPAs.

“Therefore let us keep our channel of communication opens to ensure we meet the deadline,” he said.

EPAs between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions are aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings, and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction. These agreements are set out to help ACP countries integrate into the world economy, and share in opportunities offered by globalisation. For well over 30 years, exports from the ACP countries were given generous access to the European market.

The negotiations are critical, and Namibia needs to find an appropriate balance in making and getting concessions in the EU market. Key to successful negotiations for Namibia are in the areas of rules of origin, regional industrialisation and integration. Namibia also needs to refine its policy on export taxes, customs arrangements, and bilateral and agricultural safeguards. Namibia currently enjoys free access to the EU market, and no duties are paid on Namibian products, whether industrial or agricultural, at EU borders. Namibia is also not subject to quotas

The SADC EPA group is made up of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland (BNLS) as well as Mozambique, Angola, and Tanzania (MAT), sometimes referred to as the BNLS and MAT countries.

Source : New Era