The Namibian (Windhoek)

5 April 2013

Namibia: National Consultation On EPA Coming

THE Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, yesterday told the National Assembly that he would organise a national consultation on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union for the end of this month.

Schlettwein said he wants the nation to take stock of the negotiations, potential costs and benefits of future EPAs and to chart the way forward collectively.

Quoting from what Prime Minister Hage Geingob said a few years ago on the unhappiness over EPA, Schlettwein said: "Many people speculate weather the European Union will now exclude us from their market, even though we are still negotiating. I will not join in such speculations but I trust that all concerned would realise how serious the impact of doing so would be on our exporters and Namibian economy, especially on our relations with the EU."

At the time Geingob also called upon friends in Europe not to abandon Namibia and to work with the country towards a lasting solution, saying after all the EPA was about partnership towards the shared goals of poverty alleviation and economic development.

Schlettwein said the use of export taxes in support of industrialisation, which does not amount to giving the European Commission (EC) a veto right, was one of the key issues still outstanding.

Others included the balance of bilateral and agricultural safeguards to be included in the agreement, final balance of liberalisation in agricultural products to be agreed by Southern African Customs Union and the European Commission.

Another issue was that the most favoured nation clause could be specified without undermining both the common external tariff of SACU and prospects for increased South-South cooperation and trade.

"I must emphasise that all these measures have significant economic and policy implications for Namibia and must be solved through negotiations," Schlettwein said.

A deadline of 1 October 2014 will be recommended to the EU concerning preferential access into the EU market by African, Carribbean and Pacific countries which have not yet signed EPAs.

"We [Namibia] are not alone experiencing these misgivings," Schlettwein said.

Rally for Democracy and Progress MP Jesayu Nyamu told Parliament that what scares them is the fact that Namibia is acting alone, and he asked what measures are in place to help protect the country.

All Peoples' Party president Ignatius Shikwameni said that Namibia "must stand up and die with pride" on the EPA issue as the country cannot be forced and have its arm twisted.

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