With the Americans having imposed trade tariffs on European steel, the EU looks to Africa and the Sadc region for more trade, but minister Tjekero Tweya has said this should not imply a master-servant relationship between Namibia and European states.
High ranking EU officials have indicated that they would press for exemptions from the crippling steel tariffs after a meeting with US’s top trade representatives could not yield positive results.
EU ambassador to Namibia, Jana Hybaskova has come out to say Europe is available to support the unhindered access of Namibian exports into the single market.
She has thus called for the smooth sailing of Economic Partnership Agreements between EU and African countries, particularly Namibia for mutual trade relations.
“In partnership with the parliament of the Republic of Namibia we were able to ratify economic partnership agreements and we were ready to start to implement. You might recall that actually we were hurrying with the EPA ratification in 2016 to get your grapes to EU markets duty free, quota free and we managed.”
“By that act, already in 2016 we managed to save more than 6 000 seasonal jobs along the Oranje river where most of the wine and grapes come from. This was actually one of the excellent examples of the change of atmosphere,” she said.
However, Tweya said if Europe is ready for trade and to assist in capacity building, it should not stall the momentum by further negotiations and should refrain from acting the Big Brother on implementation.
“Do not take us back. We have finished with negotiations. We need to ensure improved market access of Namibian goods in the EU now. As head of this ministry I will not entertain prescription as in how we should do this. We have the products and we want to trade. Do not take us back where we are coming from. We have been there already.”
“I am not a diplomat. If you say you want beef, then you want beef. People are hungry. Don’t tell them nice stories,” said the minister.
He also bashed local institutions for playing second fiddle to the demands of Europe in ensuring quality products for their market at the expense of locals.
“We have a problem with our own institutions. Our own institutions, so called national Standards institutes maintain standards to satisfy other markets but not what is consumed locally,” he said.
However, Hybaskova said that for this EPA implementation plan, the EU is here to assess relevant ministries so it is created and worked on.
“Sadc EPA agreements had a lot of hiccups and misunderstandings. I came to Namibia in the second half of 2016 and I am a very happy person because since I came I have not seen any hiccups,” she said.
Tweya reminisced on the time these negotiations were ongoing and said that EU ministers did not bother to see them in Europe but instead sent junior civil servants to the negotiation table.
Implementation of the EPA is facilitated through the Technical Cooperation Facility which is the responsibility of the National Planning Commission.
Said the ambassador, “We very much need to strengthen capacity of the task team offices of Namibia. This is one of the key priorities and we are really ready to train, to strengthen all the capacity in implementation,” she said.
Meanwhile, although Namibia set up its own national committee for animal, plant health and food safety to adhere to sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards (SPS), used globally in international trade to protect countries against the spreading of animal (sanitary) and plant (phyto sanitary) diseases, Hybaskova frowned at it for sleeping on the job.
“Unfortunately at this very moment it’s rather silent and we need this committee to work. There will be an enormous market opportunity for Namibia bone-in meat. It needs a special certification. So it’s a technical exercise which might increase Namibian exports to the single market in the EU.”
“This is only one example, another example is the Oyster farm which is somehow envisaged to be somewhere between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund to export Namibian Oysters to the EU. We need the SPS committee to be better equipped and we are here to support the issue,” she urged.
She cautioned that there might be some feeling that the EU is pushing Namibia to too much opening to the point of being unable to protect its own markets against regional African or global influences.
“The exact opposite is the truth,” she said.
"We are looking forward to have the SADC summit in Namibia in August 2018 to bring up just regionalisation. We need to change dynamics of trade in the region. We are entering a very special period of some trade issues between the European Union and the United States. The EU is and remains a strong supporter of an open rules based trade. EU is a global leader in open and fair trade. Maximum tariff for entering the EU is 3%. We have a level playing ground,” she said.