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EU, Namibia clear misunderstandings on trade

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(WINDHOEK) - The European Union and Namibia resolved some misunderstandings during talks Tuesday in the capital Windhoek on economic partnership agreements, the EU trade commissioner said.

"We have discussed a number of misunderstandings about the [to be signed] EPA (economic partnership agreement)", Karel de Gucht told reporters.

"We have cleared issues and I instructed my negotiators to wind up discussions to get ready as soon as possible for Namibia to sign the EPA in a few months."

De Gucht flew into Namibia Tuesday afternoon and first held talks with the Namibian fisheries and trade ministry before a brief meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba at State House.

In 2007, Namibia initialled the EU-SADC's (Southern African Development Community) interim EPA, but has not signed it so far.

Matters were delayed after a special negotiating session in the coastal town of Swakopmund, west of the capital Windhoek, in March 2009.

This was to explore possible solutions to address the specific concerns raised by Angola, Namibia and South Africa for export duties, food security, free circulation of goods, quantitative restrictions and infant industry protection.

On Tuesday De Gucht said concerns like services, property rights and competition (from EU countries) would not be included in the agreement for Namibia.

"This we will be done when Namibia feels it is ready to do so," De Gucht told AFP after his meeting with Pohamba.

"We are quite satisfied with today's talks," said Namibian Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau, who stood in for Trade Minister Hage Geingob.

"We had concerns about rules of origin for our fish with regard to Namibia's exclusive economic zone and they will be addressed," Esau told reporters.

De Gucht will travel to South Africa Wednesday to meet South African Trade Minister Rob Davies before participating in the EU-South Africa summit on Thursday.

South Africa and Namibia are negotiating a regional comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU in the framework of the Southern African Development Community EPA Group, which also includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

In 2009, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique signed an interim agreement with the EU. South Africa has a separate deal, the Trade and Development Co-operation Agreement with the EU.

The EU is Namibia's main export market -- some 30 percent of total exports -- outside Southern Africa. Namibia's main agricultural exports to the EU are beef, table grapes and fish.

In 2010, Namibia exported 1.16 billion euros ($1.6 million) worth of goods to the EU, and imported 327 million euros worth of goods from the EU.

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