Namibia next week will take its fight against an unfair trade pact with the European Union (EU) to Germany, powerhouse of the economic bloc, as part of a campaign to lobby support against losing access to the lucrative market.
Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob yesterday told The Namibian that he will meet with his counterpart in the German government to discuss, among other things, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the EU's threat to cut Namibia's market access by January 2014 if the country doesn't sign the controversial trade pact.
Namibia is done with talking to trade commissioners of EU member states about the unfairness of the EPA and the unethical behaviour of the EU in unilaterally imposing the 2014 deadline, Geingob said.
From now on, he will talk to ministers.
Geingob's visit follows on the heels Namibian parliamentarian Piet van der Walt leading a delegation with the same message to the African, Caribbean, Pacific and the European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Denmark recently.
The delegation, which also included Namibia's ambassador to the EU, Hanno Rumpf, opposed and vehemently spoke out against the EU's proposed deadline.
The European parliament in September will vote whether or not to amendment a regulation that will validate the 2014 deadline. If implemented and Namibia hasn't signed the interim EPA by January 1 2014, the country will lose its quota- and tariff-free market access for grapes, fish and beef to 27 EU countries.
Based on 2009 trade figures, Namibia will then have to pay 58,2 million euro, about N$640 million, in duties to export these products to the EU.
Namibia provisionally initialled the interim EPA in December 2007, but has refused to sign it unless issues regarding unfair competition are resolved.
At the recent Denmark meeting, Van der Walt asked the EU Commissioner for Internal Trade, Karel de Gucht, about deadline. De Gucht responded that Namibia must first sign an interim EPA and then negotiate the outstanding issues.
"We will not sign the interim EPA, we want to sign a final EPA after all our issues have been resolved," Van der Walt told The Namibian.
To finalise an EPA acceptable to Namibia will take at least 18 months, he said. Namibia is therefore lobbying support to get the deadline postponed to January 2016.
Van der Walt said the Namibian delegation met with Danish and Swedish groups during their visit to muster backing for the new deadline.
Geingob yesterday said he has also already met with high-powered delegations of the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Scandinavian countries to get the EU to stop putting "undue pressure" on Namibia and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) states to sign the agreement by bullying them with a deadline.
"It is a partnership agreement. They must therefore treat us as equal partners in the negotiations and not take unilateral decisions," he said.
Geingob didn't want to be drawn into whether the EU has a legal foot to stand on if they unilaterally enforce the deadline, merely stating that such a move would be "unethical".
However, trade experts maintain that the regulation amendment, if adopted, contravenes at least the Vienna Convention.
A section of an article in the Vienna Convention's Law of Treaties stipulates that the EU could only its provisional application of the interim EPA if it notified the affected African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries.
When the European Commission (EC) last September adopted a proposal to amend the Market Access Regulation of 2007, it didn't notify any of the ACP countries of its intention.