South Africa and the European Union (EU) are expected to revisit the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as President Thabo Mbeki heads to France for the SA-EU Summit starting Friday.
"Issues on the agenda of discussions are expected to include, among others, Southern African Development Community [SADC]-EU Economic Partnership Agreements," said the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
The summit is taking place in the context of ongoing political dialogue under the auspices of the SA-EU Strategic Partnership and the SA-EU Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA).
It will be the first regular summit since the establishment of the partnership in May 2007 and is a continuation of discussions took place during six SA-EU Ministerial Troika meetings since November 2004.
EPAs are agreements entered into by each African country, committing to certain trade agreements with the EU, in an effort to create free trade areas (FTAs).
While many African countries signed EPAs with the EU at the last African-EU Summit in December 2007 in Portugal, South Africa felt the trade agreements favoured Europe instead of it being a mutually beneficial to both.
Speaking at a recent briefing, Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said South Africa has not yet signed an EPA because it was not conducive to SADC integration.
South Africa is likely to seek greater access to European markets while seeking some type of protection for domestic markets.
The minister argued that EPAs were not in line with World Trade Organisation (WTO) standards and therefore needed to be reworked as to benefit both parties.
Speaking in December last year, Mr Mpahlwa highlighted that EPAs had already created a division within the SADC membership as some members had opted to negotiate the EPA as part of another grouping, the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) Group.
"We had hoped that, by forging a unified regional approach among the SADC EPA States to the negotiations with an important trade partner, we would strengthen trade relations within the region as well as the region's trade relations with the EU," he said.
The SADC EPA States had originally agreed that least developed countries (LDCs) should not be required to offer reciprocal opening of their markets to the EU.
"However, LDCs are now required to open up 80 percent of their market to EU exports," said the minister.
Other issues on the agenda at the summit include environmental and climate change challenges, migration, food security, the WTO Doha Development Round of talks, and Africa and global security issues. - BuaNews