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Published on : Tuesday, November 12, 2013
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will travel to South Africa (a member of the Southern African Development Community, SADC), Cameroon (Central Africa) and Ivory Coast (West Africa) this week to discuss ways to strengthen the EU’s trade and investment relations with these regions, in particular through Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and trade facilitation. After an Africa tour to Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa in July this year, Karel De Gucht will visit businesses and meet several key decision-makers with the aim to bring the EPAs with the SADC EPA Group and West Africa closer to conclusion. Concluding the EPAs is key to ensuring those countries’ free access to the EU market, foster trade-related cooperation and promotes investment. Ahead of the WTO ministerial in Bali in December the Commissioner will also visit Cameroon, a country that has invested in trade facilitation and is enjoying the benefits.
“Africa is currently seeing some of the best economic growth in the world, despite all of its challenges, and this is why I am coming back to Africa for the second time this year. I attach great importance to cementing our trade and investment relationship with African countries and regions,” said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. “We now have the opportunity to seal agreements that will ensure the necessary access to a market of 500 million consumers for key African exports, while bringing our trade and development partnership to a more advanced stage. Looking ahead to the WTO ministerial is Bali, trade facilitation offers additional benefits to developing countries. There are good examples in Africa already and wide potential for more efficient customs, logistics and related administrative handling”
In South Africa, the Commissioner is scheduled to meet with Trade Minister Rob Davies, while both in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire he is scheduled to meet high ranking government and business representatives.
On the basis of the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, organised into self-defined regional groupings, and the European Union have been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements. Those agreements aim to ensure duty free, quota free access to EU market, along with other provisions (e.g. on trade-related rules and cooperation) tailored to the needs of the ACP countries.
To date, there are three EPAs under implementation: one with the Caribbean region (CARIFORUM), one with the Pacific region (Papua New Guinea and Fiji, only Papua New Guinea applying it), and one with Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA, including Zimbabwe and the three Indian Ocean nations of Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles).
EPA negotiations seek to establish stable and sustainable partnerships based on reciprocal trade but allowing enough asymmetry to take into account the development needs of the EU’s EPA partners.
South Africa is negotiating a regional Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group, which also includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. Trade between the EU and South Africa is currently governed by the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) signed in 1999. South Africa is a key exporter of commodities, including agricultural goods and minerals (diamonds, uranium, platinum). South Africa’s strong agri-food sector focusses on wine, sugar, citrus and other fruit, but, as an emerging rather than developing country, it has a much more diversified economy and exports also manufactured or semi-manufactured goods.
The EU exports a wide range of goods to South Africa, including vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals and processed food. Total EU-South Africa bilateral trade increased by more than three quarters since 2000 and amounted to €46 billion last year. Over the years, trade between the EU and South Africa has been balanced. South Africa is also a key player in the service sector in Africa, with a strong presence in telecommunications, banking and financial services, tourism, hotels and catering, transport, etc. Trade in services with the EU has therefore also seen steep growth figures.
Cameroon signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU in 2009. The EU is also currently in negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement with the entire Central African region, including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe. Oil dominates exports to the EU from the Central African countries (70%). Other main exports are cocoa, wood copper, bananas, and diamonds. Imports from the EU into the Central African region are dominated by machinery and mechanical appliances, equipment, vehicles, foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products.
Cameroon is very active in implementing measures to facilitate trade. Trade facilitation fosters improvements in customs, logistics and trade administration, all of these highly relevant for a dynamic country such as Cameroon. Many examples, including in Africa, and several independent studies clearly show the benefits of trade facilitation for developing countries. It is the objective of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Bali in December to conclude a multilateral agreement on trade facilitation.
The EU signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the Ivory Coast in November 2008. The EU is currently in negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement with the broader West African region including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana (which initialled an interim agreement in December 2007), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritania. Côte d’Ivoire alone represents around 60% of total cocoa exports worldwide. It also exports bananas and fisheries products to the EU. EU imports into Côte d’Ivoire include industrial goods, machinery, vehicles, transport equipment and chemicals. Challenges facing Côte d’Ivoire include the post-Civil War transition, and the fight against child labour in cocoa growing farms.