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Windhoek, 16 July 2013
Remarks by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Namibia
I am pleased to be in Namibia again. This is the second time during my mandate that I am visiting, and I hope this goes to show the importance I attach to trade relations with Namibia.
The EU and SADC are negotiating a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. I hope and I am convinced that today's meeting with Prime Minister Geingob and Minister Schlettwein helped to bring the talks closer to a conclusion. Namibia is a key actor for the success of these negotiations.
Trade between the European Union and Namibia is healthy and growing. Our trade has grown at a rate of more than 200% over just ten years. And what is more, during all that time, Namibia has had a solid trade surplus with the EU, and in 2012, our bilateral trade was worth 2 billion Euros.
It goes without saying that the conclusion of the EPA is key for our trade relations. Namibia currently enjoys free access to the EU market – Namibian products, if industrial or agricultural, do not pay duties at the EU's borders and are not subject to quotas. But this regime is based on a temporary instrument which will end on 1 October 2014.
After this date, Namibia would not be eligible for preferential treatment for its exports to the EU - unless, it has ratified an Economic Partnership Agreement.
Hence my commitment to bring the negotiations on an EPA to conclusion as soon as possible – it would ensure that Namibia continues to enjoy free access to the EU market.
In the course of the EPA negotiations we have often listened to Namibian suggestions and concerns, such as in the Swakopmund talks in 2009. I believe that the EU has already shown that we are ready to adjust our offer in a balanced manner that should reflect major Namibian interests.
For example, the EU is ready to offer full free access to its market and accept that Namibia will open its market far less to European products.
We are listening to Namibia's concerns about how to deal with European goods entering Namibia's markets at lower tariffs. Here the EU has already expressed that it is ready to offer measures for infant industries, and food security safeguards.
I have also discussed Namibian requests for derogation from the Rules of Origin for the benefit of the fishing industry. I am therefore positive that we will be able to come to a satisfactory outcome.
This is a good example of what we want to achieve with the Economic Partnership Agreement: We want Namibia's local industries to benefit and to create added value and jobs.
But we are not there yet. We still have some issues open for discussion.
One of them is agricultural market access. As I have said, we offer Namibia duty-free, quota-free access to our markets. But we also want this agreement to be balanced, at least to a certain extent, in return.
Therefore, the EU is asking the Southern African Customs Union, SACU, to put an improved offer on the table that I can bring back to the European Union’s Member States.
Once we have that - I am very confident that we can bring about the political will to finalise the talks. This is why I am also visiting South Africa and Botswana this week. Let me assure you again that the EU is fully committed to bring these negotiations to a successful outcome - and sooner rather than later.
In today's meeting, both parties agreed that there will be a new negotiating round in September this year, and I really hope we can find solutions for the outstanding issues at that point.