EU trade talks drag on with no deal near
YET another round of the painstakingly slow trade negotiations between South Africa and the European Union has ended with no deal secured.
Once again both sides reported progress during the 20th round of negotiations held in Pretoria this week, and committed themselves to an agreement by September. This would be in line with calls by the summit of EU heads of state in Cardiff that negotiators reach an agreement by September.
Substantial negotiations and concessions will have to be agreed on ahead of a treaty in September. It will not be made any easier by the sticky matters at issue.
South Africa is still keen to see the EU speed up on front-loading so that liberalisation takes place early within the 10-year period in which the EU must liberalise its products. Both sides also want increased access in areas considered sensitive: agriculture and industrial products.
South Africa wants the EU to broaden agricultural exports covered by liberalisation. The EU has proposed placing these on a "reserve list" that would be reviewed regularly after a deal has been concluded.
The EU's initial offer excluded about 46% of South African agricultural products, but this has been whittled down to about 34% after the EU's revised offer, tabled this week, to increase to 95% products that would have duty-free access into the EU. This had been a condition on South Africa's offer to cover 86% of EU exports.
Brussels is understood to have made "ambitious" requests for South Africa to open up to EU industrial products, a request Pretoria considers "too strenuous".
Previously sensitive industrial products, particularly textiles and automotives, were to be covered by protocols, but South Africa has raised the prospect that it may allow the possibility of partial liberalisation of these for the EU.
Since negotiations started almost three years ago, very little progress has been made. This week the EU said it was starting similar talks with Mexico and the launch of the euro, in addition to requests from the EU heads of state, make it imperative that an agreement is reached by September. Earlier projections had been for a July agreement. Top of page