Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

14 December 2012

Namibia: We Will Not Be Pushed to Sign EPA - Schlettwein

The newly appointed Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein has reiterated Namibia's stance on the stalled EPA agreement saying the country will not be pushed into signing an agreement that is "harmful."

Recently the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Namibia, Ambassador Raul Fuentes Milani told Journalists that a lack of consensus and agreement on a final EPA was now causing the European Union Delegation to Namibia "EPA fatigue".

He said: "Namibia represents about 0.1% of EU trade. We don't want trade gains from Namibia, what we want is an agreement that is legally sound and will not be challenged. We are now experiencing EPA fatigue."

The ambassador also complained about a lack of meetings between the government and the EU Delegation saying "We have had only one round of negotiations in 2012 and this is not enough. There was another meeting scheduled for October but we didn't meet. If we need to come up with an agreement, we have to meet."

However, the trade Minister said Namibia should not be pushed into signing an agreement. He said: "We should not allow ourselves to be pushed into a corner where the commitments that we then sign harm our ability to develop. Obviously it will be a negotiated treaty so there will be compromises but at the moment I think our stance is, yes it is important, everything is on the table and we hope and we are optimistic that those issues that are still not resolved will be resolved in such a way that they are not harmful to us and we can, in a beneficial way, become a partner to the EPA treaty."

Minister Schlettwein added that Europe is one of the very important trading partners that Namibia has and therefore the EPA is a very important instrument that needs to be negotiated, "but if the EPA contains elements that are not beneficial to Namibia, that are even harmful to Namibia, obviously they must remain on the table and must be negotiated until we have reached a win win situation."

The European Parliament voted for the extension of the deadline of the signing of the final EPA agreement from January 2014 to 2016 as countries, including Namibia, needed time to look at some of the proposals from the EU. The trade Minister welcomed the move, saying the issues on the table are difficult and complex issues that need time before an agreement can be reached.

"We are not alone as Namibia that have identified some of the issues that are not yet resolved and I think that is being realised that it is a serious issue for a number of developing countries and I am very happy that the EU took a step back and said well maybe there is room for improvement and let's give ourselves a little bit of time to see that we can solve it better. I think the EPA is too important not to be resolved," the Minister said.

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