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EU signs economic partnership deal with six African nations

The European Union and six countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the first of its kind between the EU and an African region pursuing economic integration.

The Economic Partnership Agreement with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland is a development-oriented free trade agreement. The EU is the largest trading partner of this group. In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost 32 billion euro from the region, mostly minerals and metals. The EU exported goods of the nearly same value, consisting mostly of engineering, automotive and chemical products.

The agreement provides for a number of protective measures, for instance, for nascent, fragile industries or for food security reasons. It guarantees Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland duty-free, quota-free access to the European market. South Africa will also benefit from enhanced market access, going beyond the existing bilateral arrangement.

All participants commit to acting toward sustainable development, including by upholding social and environmental standards. The EPA also establishes a consultation procedure for environmental or labor issues and defines a comprehensive list of areas in which the partners will cooperate to foster sustainable development.

For the South African market specifically, particular advantage has been granted to EU producers of traditional quality products with a worldwide reputation – for example, wines and food products.