A SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement – current status and benchmarking of negotiations
At the end of 2007 the WTO waiver with respect to the Lomé/Cotonou-based non-reciprocal trade preferences for African Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) countries in the EU market for goods trade expired. The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that were supposed to replace the preferential regime, with one exception, did not materialise as comprehensive or full agreements. The exception is the Caribbean group, CARIFORUM. Seventeen African states initialled interim EPAs, that is, partial agreements on reciprocal trade in goods that would meet the requirements of General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), Article XXIV, complemented by rendezvous clauses that provided for a continuation of negotiations toward full EPAs that would include elements such as trade in services, investment, competition and government procurement.
The SADC EPA group is embroiled in a particularly complicated outcome. South Africa was admitted at a relatively late stage as a full SADC negotiation participant; initially it had observer status. This, however, is an SADC minus group since it initially included only eight SADC member states, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland (BLNS) and South Africa, all members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania. Towards the end of 2007, with the derogation of the WTO waiver approaching, Tanzania opted out of the SADC group and joined the East African Community (EAC) configuration, thus effectively reducing the SADC group to SACU plus Angola and Mozambique. Of the seven countries in the group, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique initialled an interim EPA (IEPA) on 23 November 2007, and Namibia with reservations on 12 December 2007. Angola did not submit an offer but has indicated that it will do so in 2008. As noted above, South Africa, the economically dominant member, did not initial the interim agreement and consequently will continue to trade under the TDCA.
This paper does not intend to explain this outcome and to identify the key players and events that brought about this unsatisfactory and incomplete outcome. Instead of indulging in a ‘blame game’ review, the situation is accepted and attention rather focused on, first, the questions of the legal status and consequences of the current situation and, second, the process of benchmarking that can be adopted in negotiating a full EPA. The latter part of the paper in effect summarises the more comprehensive report on benchmarking EPA negotiations that was prepared for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).
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