EU seeks end to trade impasse at South Africa summit
(BRUSSELS) - The EU hopes to make progress in deadlocked trade talks affecting southern African states at an annual EU-South Africa summit, European diplomats said Monday on the eve of the talks.
President Jacob Zuma, flanked by five cabinet ministers, meets EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso early Tuesday as business leaders from the two sides hold their first ever summit.
The European Union is South Africa's largest trading partner -- accounting for nearly a third of its trade in 2010 -- and also its most important donor, providing some 70 percent of aid in what is the EU's largest bilateral envelope.
But Brussels says Pretoria is also holding up efforts to agree a wide-ranging Economic Partnership Agreement with the 15 southern African nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), some among the world's poorest and all less powerful than South Africa.
"The key person we need to move is South Africa," said a senior EU diplomat who asked not to be named. "For other partners it's more or less closed."
The EU had hoped to end EPA negotiations with the region next year but South Africa is demanding more access to the EU market, the world's biggest, for its agricultural products, including wine, another source said.
A diplomat said Brussels had made an offer and was awaiting a response. "We're not asking the moon. There's an offer on the table to which South Africa must respond."
A deal would be particularly beneficial to nations such as Namibia or Botswana.
Since 2004, trade between the EU and South Africa has increased by 128 percent and the 27-nation bloc accounts for three quarters of direct foreign investment to the country.
The summit will also boosting the fight against piracy and terrorism as well as strengthening cooperation on science and technology and launching a so-called human rights "dialogue."
"South Africa is an important partner in helping us find common ground with Africa on rights," said one diplomat.
Text and Picture Copyright 2012 AFP. All other Copyright 2012 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.