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  June 20th, 2016 | Written by

EU signs Economic Partnership Agreement with Southern African Countries

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  • Regional agreements could soon be signed between the EU and West Africa and the East African Community.
  • The EU is the largest trading partner of the SADC EPA group.
  • In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost €32 billion from the region and exported goods of the same value.

The European Union and six countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA), the first of its kind between the EU and an African region pursuing economic integration. The signature took place in Kasane, Botswana.

The agreement was signed by Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström on behalf of the EU.

“Trade is a tool to spur economic growth and sustainable development,” said Malmström . “It’s also an important factor for integrating regions and forming stronger bonds between countries. With the economic partnership agreement, we want to base our trade relations with our partners in the Southern African region on commonly agreed, stable rules.”

The EPA with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland–the so-called SADC EPA group–is a development-oriented free trade agreement. In addition to this agreement, other regional agreements could also soon be signed with West Africa and the East African Community.

The EU is the largest trading partner of the SADC EPA group. In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost €32 billion from the region, mostly minerals and metals. The EU exported goods of the nearly same value, consisting mostly of engineering, automotive and chemical products.

The EPA takes into account the different levels of development of each partner. It guarantees Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland duty-free, quota-free access to the European market. South Africa will also benefit from enhanced market access, going beyond the existing bilateral arrangement. Furthermore, the agreement signed today increases the flexibility of Southern African producers to put together products from components from various countries, without the risk of losing their free access to the EU market. It also provides for a number of protective measures, for instance for nascent, fragile industries or for food security reasons.

The Southern African markets will open gradually and partially to EU exports, in an asymmetric way. In the process of diversifying their economies and broadening production, imports of certain goods are important for Southern African nations – certain industrial parts, seeds and machinery, for instance. The import duties on many of these so-called intermediary goods will be significantly reduced, making the products more easily accessible to Southern African entrepreneurs.

For the South African market specifically, particular advantage has been granted to EU producers of traditional quality products with a worldwide reputation – for example wines and food products – that will now get the exclusive right to use their traditional names in South Africa. Correspondingly, several South African geographical indications will, from now on, be protected on the EU market, such as different types of South African wine such as Stellenbosch and Paarl, along with Rooibos tea and other products.

By signing the agreement, all participants commit to acting towards sustainable development, including by upholding social and environmental standards. The EPA also establishes a consultation procedure for environmental or labor issues and defines a comprehensive list of areas in which the partners will cooperate to foster sustainable development. Civil society will have a special role in monitoring the impact of the agreement. In addition, a detailed chapter on development cooperation identifies trade-related areas that could benefit from EU financial support.

The EPA creates joint institutions to support dialogue, the smooth handling of all trade issues, and the monitoring of the impact of the trade deal. The EU will work with its SADC partners to ensure the smooth implementation of the agreement, together with regional and national development cooperation bodies.

The EU Council of Ministers took the decision to authorize the signature of the Economic Partnership Agreement on June 1. Following the signature, the agreement will now be submitted for approval to the European Parliament, and for ratification in the 28 EU Member States according to national ratification procedures and in the Southern African countries.