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EU deal allows easier access for SA products

| Supplier news

Greater market access for a range of South African products into the giant EU market is soon to become a reality with the implementation of the long-awaited economic partnership agreement between the EU and six southern African countries.

The agreement which has been approved by Cabinet will be signed at an event in Botswana early next month although implementation will have to await ratification by Parliament, which only reconvenes in August after its prolonged recess for the local government elections. The deadline for implementation of the agreement to commence is October 1.

The six signatories are SA, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Mozambique. Angola participated in the initial discussions but decided that it was not ready to enter into the agreement.

The terms of the deal offer much wider market access for a range of South African products than exists under the current trade and development co-operation agreement that SA signed with the EU in 2000. This deal included 98% duty-free access for South African industrial goods into Europe but only 60% of agricultural production was favoured. The new economic partnership agreement gives greater weight to agricultural product access.

Concessions include an increase in bthe quota for duty-free wine exports from 47-million litres a year to 110million litres, and the introduction of duty-free quotas for sugar of 15,000 tonnes and ethanol of 80,000 tonnes a year. Negotiations on the economic partnership agreement were very tough, lasting about 10 years with several sticking points creating prolonged delays.

Department of Trade and Industry deputy director-general Xolela Mlumbi-Peter said on Thursday that a key element of the agreement was that it recognised the common external tariff of the South African Customs Union (Sacu). A single trade regime between Sacu and the EU would be established.

The EU has also accepted a "rules of origin" framework which will allow products partially produced outside of SA to benefit from the trade concessions. Mlumbi-Peter said it was important that the agreement would allow SA to impose export taxes on its raw material exports in a bid to increase local beneficiation. SA also negotiated a bilateral protocol on geographical indicators with the EU, due to growing interest in protecting wine names and specialised agricultural product names.

The agreement will protect 102 wine names including the use of "champagne" by EU countries and other European-specific indicators such as "feta". Three South African agricultural product names gaining recognition are Rooibos, Honeybush and Karoo Lamb.

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