9 May 2018

Namibia: Free Trade Won't Be a One-Way Street - Geingob

Photo: President Hage Geingob/Facebook
President Hage Geingob.(file photo).

NAMIBIA has put measures in place to make sure that it benefits rather than lose from signing the continental free trade area agreement, President Hage Geingob said yesterday.

Geingob made the remarks when he met the visiting African Union chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at State House in Windhoek.

Namibia is expected to sign the continental free trade agreement in July this year. Namibia signed the declaration of intent in March this year.

The agreement is expected to remove barriers to trade, such as tariffs and import quotas, to allow the free flow of goods and services between African Union members states.

It is also expected to boost commerce, growth and employment for 1,2 billion people on the continent and would create one of the world's largest free trade blocs.

The agreement would also compel participating countries to increase their productive manufacturing capacity to be able to export to other countries.

According to information on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development there will be a combined loss of US$1,4 billion in revenue to participating states as a result of this agreement.

Local economists have also cautioned that government must take into consideration all necessary factors that can negatively affect the already small economy of the country and come up with measures to protect the local market from external shocks and outside competition.

The President yesterday, however, said while there are benefits expected to come with the signing of the agreement, there were also risks involved.

"The continental agreement is just an extension of what we are already doing at the regional level. Off course we are a small economy, but it is not a free for all. The agreement would allow us to add more value to our products so that we can also sell to other countries," he said.

He added that Namibia would put the necessary policies in place to make sure that the country benefits from the risks that are opening up to the rest of the continent and that the country would not be adversely exposed to shocks.

"Let's not be afraid of this, there is a control mechanism, so it would be good for us to participate. We are already an open economy, and this is an opportunity for us to exhale, but it is not going to be a one-way street because there will be laws.

"There will be no big boss," Geingob stated, adding that Namibia would also have an opportunity to collaborate with other countries in several areas to increase production.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein yesterday also shared these sentiments with the President, saying that the agreement itself has components meant to protect local markets such as "safeguards, rules of origin and other regulatory frameworks that would make sure that no harm is done" to the local economy.

"It is not a risk-free thing, but there is a big opportunity to trade on a larger scale and to improve the value of our production," he said.

The minister added that Namibia would need to improve some legislative frameworks to guard against the dominance of foreign markets and "to increase our production capacity".

"The country must take that step, policy-wise, to say that we want to move away from the situation where the economy is only based on the primary sector (raw materials). But then we must also implement what has been decided policy-wise," he said.

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