Discussions

Institutional architecture of the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement

Institutional architecture of the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement

31 Aug 2017

Talkmore Chidede, tralac Researcher, discusses the institutional architecture responsible for monitoring and facilitating the implementation of the EU-SADC EPA

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group, comprising South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique was signed on 10th June 2016. The Agreement has been provisionally implemented[1] since 10 October 2016, and will be fully implemented once ratified by all the EU member states. The EU-SADC EPA establishes several institutions responsible for monitoring, administering or assisting with the implementation of the Agreement. These institutions include the Joint Council, the Trade and Development Committee, the Special Committee on Customs and Trade Facilitation and the Special Committee on Geographical Indications and Trade in Wine and Spirits.

The Joint Council is composed of relevant members of the EU Council and the European Commission or their representatives and the ministers of SADC Group or their representatives. It is the primary institution responsible for overseeing and administering the overall implementation of the EU-SADC EPA. The Joint Council’s functions include, inter alia to: monitor the fulfilment of the EPA objectives; examine any major issues that may arise under the EPA; make appropriate recommendations; monitor the development of economic and trade relations between the parties; monitor and measure the impact of parties’ cooperation on sustainable development; review the progress on all matters covered by the EPA; and supervise the work of the Trade and Development Committee.

The Joint Council provides periodic reports on the operation of the EU-SADC EPA to the Council of Ministers established in accordance with Article 15 of the Cotonou Agreement. In addition, the Joint Council has power to make decisions in respect of all matters covered by the EU-SADC EPA. Such decisions are taken by consensus and binding on the parties.[2] The Council’s decisions for procedural matters and dispute settlement procedures are adopted by mutual agreement between the parties. The Joint Council meets regularly (period between meetings not exceeding two years) and extra-ordinarily when circumstances so require and if the parties agree. The Council is assisted by the Trade and Development Committee in the performance of its duties.

The Trade and Development Committee consists of representatives (normally senior officials) of the EU and SADC Group. It is chaired alternatively by a representative of each of the parties for a period of one year. It is accountable to the Joint Council. The Trade and Development Committee may establish special technical groups to deal with specific matters within their expertise. It supervises and establishes rules of procedure of such technical groups.

The main functions of the Trade and Development Committee are in the areas of trade and development cooperation. In respect of trade, the Committee, among other things, monitors and evaluates the implementation of the decisions of the Joint Council; facilitates and supervises the implementation of the EPA provisions; makes recommendations to the Council on cooperation priorities and conflict avoidance; monitors the development of regional integration. The Committee also has to undertake actions that may facilitate trade, investment and business opportunities between the parties, and to discuss any matters under the EPA and any issue that may affect the attainment of its objectives. In relation to development co-operation, the Committee monitors the implementation of the EPA provisions on co-operation and coordinate such action with third party donors; makes recommendations on trade-related co-operation between the parties; and monitors and assesses the impact of the EPA on sustainable development of the parties.

In addition, the Trade and Development Committee has specific tasks to monitor and review the implementation of the Chapters on technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, Chapters V and VI of the EPA respectively.

The SADC EPA further establishes Special Committees to deal with specific matters: the  Special Committee on Customs and Trade Facilitation[3] and the Special Committee on Geographical Indications and trade in wine and spirits.[4]

The Special Committee on Customs and Trade Facilitation is composed of the representatives of the EU and the SADC Group. It is responsible for monitoring the implementation and administration of Chapter IV (Customs and trade facilitation) and Protocol 1 (Concerning the definition of the concept of “originating products” and methods of administrative cooperation) of the EPA. Thus, it deals with the co-operation, development, application and enforcement of customs issues including rules of origin, customs valuation, customs procedures, tariff classification, transit and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters. The Special Committee on Customs and Trade Facilitation is also responsible for following up on the harmonisation of customs standards at regional level. It reports the Trade and Development Committee.

The Special Committee on Geographical Indications and trade in wine and spirits is tasked with the implementation and functioning of Protocol 3 (Geographical Indications and Trade in wine and Spirits) of the EPA. If a party to the Protocol wishes to amend laws or regulations including applying for new geographical indications, it must, through the Committee on GIs, notify the other party (Article 13 of Protocol 3). The Committee may make recommendations and adopt decisions by consensus and may decide to modify the annexes of Protocol 3.

It must be noted that state parties have a responsibility to monitor the operation of the EU-SADC EPA via their respective institutions (and the ones discussed above) to ensure that the Agreement is properly implemented.[5]

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[1] Provisional implementation entails the temporary application of certain provisions of the EPA which fall within the parties’ competences, pending the entry into force of the entire Agreement. See Article 133 of the EPA, available at: https://www.tralac.org/resources/by-region/africa-s-external-relations.html

[2] Parties are required to take all necessary measures to implement the decisions of the Council in accordance with their respective internal rules.

[3] Article 50 of the EPA.

[4] Article 13 of Protocol 3 of the EPA.

[5] Article 4 of the EPA.