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EU pushing for trade deal with southern Africa
By Rikard Jozwiak
Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton wants to replicate South African deal with rest of the region.
The European Commission is pressing South Africa to give its support to a trade deal between the EU and the region of southern Africa.
Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, is on a four-day mission to South Africa and Botswana, whose main purpose is to urge South Africa to engage more fully in talks on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
South Africa has been holding out on a deal, though five other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland - have initialled an 'interim EPA' with the EU, a deal that covers just goods. Though the interim EPA has not been signed, it is provisionally in force. A sixth member of SADC - Angola - has not initialled the interim EPA.
The European Commission is officially pursuing a full EPA, which would open up access not just to markets for goods, but would also include chapters on issues such as services, investment and intellectual property.
South Africa already has strong bilateral trade with the EU, governed by the Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement (TDCA), signed with the EU in 1999, as well as separate agreements on wine and spirits, agreed in 2002. The goal of the TDCA is to create a free-trade area with the EU over a period of 12 years, with the EU opening up its market at a faster pace.
South Africa participated in the EU-SADC EPA talks initially only as an observer, but joined the negotiations in 2007 after the EU insisted that the biggest player in the region should be involved. The Commission wants to ensure that South Africa's neighbours enjoy the same deals with the EU as South Africa does, without too many overlapping structures. As well as uncertainty over the extent of regional integration, one of the sticking-points is a clause on 'most favoured nation' status, which would ensure that if South Africa made greater concessions in a deal with another country, the EU would automatically enjoy the same level of access.