Netherlands plays key role in EU trade agreement with Southern Africa

An Economic Partnership Agreement was signed today in Kasane, Botswana between six African countries and the European Union. The purpose of this EPA is to stimulate trade and investment between the signatories. ‘After so many years of negotiations I happy we now have an agreement that can lead to greater employment, regional integration and inclusive economic growth,’ said Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen.

For years, EPA talks between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries had slowed to a standstill. For Ms Ploumen this was a reason to offer the Netherlands’ services as an ‘honest broker’ in 2013. Dutch government ministers and senior civil servants sought to bring the parties to the table and mediate discussions. ‘Participation by both businesses and civil society groups was an important part of the process,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘By maintaining the dialogue between them, we were able to lay a solid foundation, and the result we now have provides many opportunities for all sides.’

The EPA with Southern Africa regulates trade between the EU member states and South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. It also completely abolishes tariffs and quotas for African companies operating in European markets. In addition agreements have been made about food security and protecting emerging industries against dumping. Another salient aspect of the agreement is the sharp reduction in customs red tape. The EPA also contains provisions conferring protected status on certain product names, such as ‘rooibos’ for South African producers and ‘Gouda Holland cheese’ for Dutch exporters.

The current volume of trade between the two regions amounts to around €64 billion annually. The EU exports machinery, vehicles and electrical appliances to Southern Africa, while importing fuel, precious stones and agriculture products like nuts and fruit. ‘This is the first full EPA to be concluded on the African continent,’ Ms Ploumen remarked. ‘We trust we will be able to forge similar agreements with West and East Africa in the near future.’