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Agreement with EU Crucial to Viability of Namibia's Fishing Industry

11 October 2013

NAMIBIA - Namibia’s fishing companies currently pay zero tariffs to export their products to the European Union (EU), but certain elements within the sector are concerned about the future economic viability of the fisheries industry if Namibia does not sign the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The Chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, Matti Amukwa, is troubled by the fact that if the EPA is not signed Namibia would have to start paying Most Favoured Nation tariffs, reports NewEra.

“We support the position that negotiations should be allowed to continue until an agreement that is mutually beneficial can be reached,” explained Mr Amukwa.

However, he stressed that it is ‘absolutely vital’ that an agreement is reached, particularly for sectors such as hake, where 70 per cent of exports currently go to the EU and monk, where close to 100 per cent of exports go to the EU, as the livelihoods of over 9000 people are at stake.

“What is also of concern is that if Namibia loses its zero tariff status for exports to the EU, the Namibian fishing industry will incur higher export costs for secondary processed products over lesser processed products. If necessary, perhaps Namibian-Spanish joint venture partners can be brought in to help with the negotiation process with the EU,” Mr Amukwa offered. On 14 September last year, the European Parliament voted for 1 January 2016 as the deadline for the completion of the EPA negotiation processes. However, on 21 March, earlier this year the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee endorsed the earlier date of 1 October 2014 as the deadline for the completion of the EPA processes with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have not signed the EPAs.

Failure to reach an agreement by that deadline would mean forfeiting preferential market access to the EU. The unilateral decision has been described by Trade and Industry Minister, Calle Schlettwein, as regrettable.

“This approach taken by the EU goes against the letter and spirit of what is supposed to be a partnership and is regrettable. It also has the potential of placing undue pressure on the negotiating processes. I therefore reiterate my concern over this unilateral step by a negotiating partner,” said Mr Schlettwein recently during the opening of a two-day national consultation on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and EU-EPA negotiations. This year marks the 11th year of engagement in the EPA negotiations, which is a reflection of the complexity of the issues on the negotiating table.

The negotiations started in 2000 and should have been concluded in December 2007, which was the date when the World Trade Organisation waiver to the EU to provide non-reciprocal access to ACP countries was expiring. Faced with the threat of loss of preferential market access to the EU market at the end of December 2007, many ACP countries signed the interim EPAs. However, Namibia opted not to sign the interim EPA given that the country’s negotiators identified issues that would have eroded policy space.

“As a country we initialed the test of the agreement and obtained an undertaking from the EU that the contentious issues, later termed ‘unresolved negotiating issues’, that Namibia and its partners in the SADC-EPA configuration had identified, would be addressed in a meaningful and beneficial manner in the negotiations towards a final EPA,” noted Mr Schlettwein.

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