16 October 2017: The Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) together with the European Union convened a one-day forum in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 16th October 2017 to sensitise Civil Society on the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The EU signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on 10 June 2016 with the SADC EPA Group comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.The agreement specifically focuses on the sustainable development objectives embedded in the pact.
In her keynote address, EU Commissioner for Trade, Ms. Cecilia Malmström said that the EU is convinced that trade policy and EPAs are not about abstract growth figures, but people and how people can benefit from trade rules. She added that trade is a vital component in any successful development strategy, and that exports are critical in improving the quality of lives more especially in developing nations.
The Minister of Trade and Industry for South Africa, Honourable Rob Davis in welcoming the participants, expressed the importance of the partnership with the civil society and private sector. He indicated that indeed the EPAs are an instrument of development for the SADC region.
Speaking on behalf of the SADC EPA Group Coordinator, Ms. Ontlamentse Ward underscored the importance of consultation with key stakeholders, to guide effective implementation of the Agreement.
The Chief Technical Adviser under the SADC EPA Unit, Ms. Boitumelo Sebonego represented the SADC Secretariat. In her speech, Ms. Sebonego thanked the EU for its vast support to the region, following the signing of the contribution agreements with the SADC Secretariat. She pointed out that the Regional Economic Integration Support (REIS) and the Trade Related Facility (TRF) Programmes which began in 2013 and 2014 respectively are geared towards assisting the SADC region in implementing its mandate of regional integration in the economic and trade sectors.
The forum represented an opportunity to identify crucial issues in the region related to economic development, environmental protection and social development; as well as feeding into the development of mechanisms for ongoing monitoring processes and implementation of the EPA. The forum emphasised the importance of communication, awareness, access to information and capacity building by citizens in EPA Members States towards the success of EPAs.
Photo caption: Ms. Cecilia Malmström (left) and Hon. Davis during the forum