José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy are in Pretoria next week for Summit talks with President Jacob Zuma. The EU Ambassador Roeland van de Geer today hosted a media conference to highlight some of the key issues.
He noted the importance of the relationship, as the EU accounts for 25% of SA’s exports – bigger than all the BRICS partners combined.
The Ambassador suggested that Europe wants to encourage SA to export more – he gave the example of protectionist calls from local chicken farmers, and suggested that that if local producers were more efficient they would be exporting to Europe. And meat and frozen potato chip exports should be encouraged too. “We feel very strongly that SA should look at the competitiveness of its industry. This is very fundamental,” he said.
A spat over EU restrictions on imports of SA lemons has soured relations in recent months. A disease called black spot is worrying the Europeans, but the Ambassador said the issue is in the hands of their scientists and a solution is in sight which would intensify inspections of SA lemon exports to as many as 5 inspections on consignments. Apparently this problem can be invisible when the lemons leave SA, but becomes visible during shipment. The Ambassador said it’s in everybody’s interests to resolve this as soon as possible.
The Summit itself will involve discussions on investment, unemployment, Zimbabwe, Syria, piracy off the East Coast of Africa and the peaceful use of nuclear technology. On the eve of the Summit there will be a business forum involving around 100 business leaders on each side. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies will join EU politicians in addressing the forum.
The Europeans will launch a 100 m euro support programme in support of SA’s infrastructure, which will be topped up with loans from various development agencies.
The elephant in the room will be the still unfinished negotiations on a new regional trade accord between the EU and SADC – known as the Economic Partnership Agreement or EPA. The Ambassador remains keen to see this concluded this year, and said he hopes the Summit gives negotiators “the impetus” needed to wrap things up – although he cautioned that this is not just for SA to decide, but will be done in consultation with regional partners.
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