Five southern African countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland – and the European Union (EU) this week started a new chapter in their bilateral relations with the entry into effect of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
As of this week, the agreement will apply to trade between the EU and the five countries. Mozambique is in the process of ratifying the agreement and will join in as soon as the ratification procedure is completed.
Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "When I visited Botswana in June for the signing ceremony, I saw first-hand how important it is to build a stable trade partnership between Europe and Africa. Today we’re taking a crucial step towards making that a reality. The agreement that we’re putting in place will support sustainable economic growth and regional integration in southern Africa and is designed to help lift people out of poverty in the years to come. Africa is the emerging continent and the Economic Partnership Agreements have been designed to maximise this dynamism."
The EPA takes into account the different levels of development of the partners. It gives 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 its existing bilateral arrangement with the EU.
The southern African markets will open only partially to EU exports, gradually over time, providing their industries with the intermediary goods they need to support growth. It also provides for a number of protective measures in these countries, for instance for nascent, fragile industries or for food security reasons. Furthermore, the agreement increases the flexibility of southern African producers to put together products with components from various other countries, without the risk of losing their free access to the EU market.
The SADC EPA Group consists of six out of 15 members of the Southern African Development Community (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa). Angola has observer status and may join the agreement in the future.
The EU is the largest trading partner of the SADC EPA group. In 2015, the EU imported goods worth almost €32 billion from the region, mostly minerals and metals. The EU exported goods of nearly the same value, consisting mostly of engineering, automotive and chemical products. Total trade between the EU and the SADC EPA Group (including Angola) amounts to €63 billion.
In signing the agreement, participants commit to act towards sustainable development, including upholding social and environmental standards. Civil society will have a special role in monitoring the impact of the agreement. The Agreement is also of a new species in that it is the first trade deal that directly supports the economic integration of a specific region, favouring closer links within the six Southern African nations involved.
The EPA creates joint institutions to support dialogue, smooth handling of all trade issues, and monitoring of the impact of the trade deal. The EU will work with its SADC partners to ensure smooth implementation of the agreement, together with regional and national development cooperation bodies.
RIGHT CONDITIONS FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are the main pillar of ACP-EU trade cooperation, and aim at creating the right conditions for trade and investment. In this context, the EPA between the EU and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) EPA Group establishes a long-term and stable trade relationship between both Parties, in compliance with international trade rules.
The current population of the SADC EPA countries combined is 89 million people. The two largest countries are South Africa and Mozambique, accounting for respectively 61% and 30% of the region's total population.
The average GDP per capita is roughly 3,700 EUR. In purchasing power parities (PPP), this value is much higher, at about 8,400 EUR.
Behind this average hides significant variation.
Per capita GDP in the region's richest country, Botswana is approximately
15,700 EUR, which is roughly 14 times as high as it is in the region's poorest country, Mozambique. The regional average GDP per capita is about 25% that of the EU. Real GDP grew by an annualised 3% over the last decade, a period in which the corresponding figure for the EU was 1%.
In total, the EU imported about 23.7 billion EUR worth of goods from the region whereas its goods exports were 27.2 billion EUR.
THE RATIONALE AND CONTENT OF THE SADC EPA
The EU's trade relations with the ACP countries were historically framed by a series of conventions, which granted unilateral preferences to the ACP countries on the EU market. By the end of the 1990s, it was found that these conventions did not promote trade competiveness, diversification and growth as intended. They were also found to be in breach of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) principles, as they established unfair discrimination between developing countries. A change was therefore required. EPAs were the response defined jointly by the ACP countries and the EU in the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000. EPAs build a new reciprocal partnership for trade and development, asymmetric in favour of ACP countries. In keeping with the objectives set out in the Cotonou Agreement, sustainable development is a key objective of the EPA, which is explicitly based on the "essential and fundamental" elements set out in the Cotonou Agreement (human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law, and good governance). The joint EPA institutions are tasked with the function of monitoring and assessing the impact of the implementation of EPAs on the sustainable development of the Parties, also carving out a clear role for civil society and members of parliament.
In view of these objectives, the EPA differs from most Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) currently in place or negotiated by the EU with other trading partners: while it remains a reciprocal agreement, it weighs in favour of southern
Africa through specific provisions:
·Asymmetric market access: The EU has committed to opening its market more than the SADC EPA countries have committee to do. The agreement fully takes into account the differences in the level of development between the two regions.
·Safeguards: Under the terms of the agreement, SADC EPA countries continue to be able to protect their sensitive products from European competition either by keeping tariffs in place or, if necessary, by imposing safeguard measures. To support local agricultural production, the EU has also agreed not to subsidise any of its agricultural exports.
·Flexible rules of origin: companies in the SADC EPA region also have more flexibility to use foreign components while still benefitting from free access to the EU market. In the SADC EPA, the rules defining the origin are formulated in a way to support development of new value chains in the region. The so-called
"cumulation of origin" enables canned fruit exporters to source fruit from neighbour countries, or textile producers to use imported fabric. This type of flexible rules of origin will benefit companies in agri-food, fishery and industrial sectors.
·Development: The EU complements the market opening effort of its partners with substantial development assistance. This will contribute to development, sustainable growth and reducing poverty.
ESTIMATED EFFECTS OF TARIFF REDUCTIONS
The economic impact of the EPA was assessed using a dynamic general equilibrium model, tailor-made for trade policy analysis and adjusted to the specific characteristics which apply to the southern African countries. In a conservative manner, only the impact of the tariff reductions was assessed, i.e. what is easily quantifiable from the agreement. Essential provisions of the EPA (rules of origin, trade facilitation, cooperation on norms, and development assistance) were not considered in the model even though they weigh in favour of SADC EPA countries. The results presented in this study are therefore expected to be exceeded over time. Based on the simulation results,
SADC EPA countries' GDP will be positively affected by the agreement, albeit to a small extent: Individual countries see their GDP grow by between 0.01% and
1.18%, whereas the weighted average GDP increase, which is strongly dominated by South Africa, is about 0.03% (Importantly, all results refer to the situation in 2035 compared to a situation without the EPA).
The variation between countries reflects the extent to which the EPA and the baseline differ: in countries such as Namibia, the EPA provides duty-free quota-free access while the country, in the absence of EPA, would not benefit from a preferential treatment (hence the higher impact).
In Botswana, the main export items (e.g. diamonds) would still benefit from low duties without the EPA (hence the lower impact). For a least-developed country like Mozambique, which would still benefit from duty-free quota-free in the absence of EPA, the main benefits to be expected rather come from the flexible rules of origin, regional integration as well as cooperation on norms and standards to boost its exports (all factors which could not be quantified and therefore were not included in the model).Total exports from the SADC EPA Group to the world are positively affected by the EPA as are total imports.
SADC EPA exports are expected to increase on average by 0.13% and imports by 0.14%. In particular, SADC EPA exports to the EU are expected to increase by 0.91%. The agreement has no measureable impact on the EU's overall trade with the world. Exports to the SADC EPA countries are anticipated to increase by 0.73% against a scenario where there would be no EPA. The sectors with the highest expected increases in exports from SADC EPA countries are red meat (15.3%) and sugar (13.7%). Other sectors where an increase in exports is expected are beverage and tobacco, dairy products, fisheries, motor vehicles, "other food", textile, utilities, vegetable oil, vegetables and fruit, and white meat.
While several of the increases are sizeable, decreases are usually below 0.1%, with the exception of wearing apparel (-1.2%), cattle (-0.8%) and electronics (-0.4%). The increase and decrease reflect the comparative treatment of each sector under the EPA by comparison to the baseline: in many sectors, EU customs duties are already low in the baseline scenario (especially when it comes to inputs into the production or primary products), while EU customs duties on finished goods and agricultural goods are much higher in the baseline than in the EPA, hence the higher positive impact in those sectors.
The remuneration of the factors of production is generally positively affected by the EPA even if only to a small extent. Remuneration of labour and land is generally expected to increase, while other factors such as capital and natural resources offer a more mixed picture.
The SADC EPA is expected to modestly reduce the poverty headcount in the two countries observed (South Africa and Namibia). As a result of tariff reduction, SADC EPA countries will collect less import duties, but the decrease is on average not higher than 0.59% of total import duty collection at the end of the liberalisation period. Revenue loss is therefore expected to be limited.
The EPA paves the way for a stable and long-term bi-regional trade relationship between southern Africa and the EU. The outcome of the negotiations is a WTO-compatible Agreement that offers asymmetry in market access. The duty-free access to the European market for the Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland (BLMNS) countries will no longer be at the discretion of the EU but will be anchored in a treaty between the Parties. South Africa has also negotiated better access than currently granted under the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the EU.
The EPA, including through its development cooperation pillar, is expected to facilitate intra-regional trade as well as the region's trade with the world. The SADC EPA will also re-establish the common external tariff of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and thereby renew the proper functioning of the oldest existing customs union in the world. The EPA creates a joint Council and a joint Committee in charge of the implementation of the agreement. It will be the task of those institutions to ensure that the EPA is properly implemented, as well as to make proposals for the review of priorities set out in the agreement. For that purpose, constant monitoring of implementation is paramount.
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Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.