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As part of its ongoing commitment to help exporters in its trade partner countries make the most of the trade agreements the EU has introduced, a trade mission led by Brussels-based Trade Affairs Officer of the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission Mr. Roberto Cecutti visited the Kingdom of Lesotho's capital, Maseru, from 14 to 15 March 2018. The aim of the mission was to raise awareness about the benefits of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and to address questions about its implementation.
The EU-SADC EPA is a development-oriented free trade agreement that guarantees access to the EU market without any duties or quotas for Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland, while 96% of South African products can enter the EU market duty-free quota free. The EU-SADC EPA was signed on 10 June 2016 and became fully operational on 10 October 2016 for all countries but Mozambique, for which it entered into application on 5 February 2018.
Mr. Cecutti was accompanied by the EU Regional Trade Counsellor from Gaborone, Mr. John Taylor and Trade Counsellor from the EU Delegation in Pretoria, Mr. Massimo De Luca. A group of EU Member States' Trade Counsellors representing Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland and Spain participated in the mission as well.
At an EU-SADC EPA Outreach event organised by the Kingdom's Ministry of Trade and Industry at the 'Manthabiseng Convention Centre on 15 March 2018, the mission met with members from Lesotho's civil service, the private sector and civil society. Before the Outreach event the Ministry also facilitated and led smaller meetings with the Ministry of Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
Representing the Ambassador of the European Union Dr Christian Manahl at the EPA Outreach event, the Head of Cooperation Mr. Markus Theobald said: "The purpose of the meeting today is to take stock of the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement. We would like to understand how the agreement has contributed to facilitate trade in Lesotho, trade between Lesotho and its partners in the region, trade between Lesotho and the European Union, and whether it has helped to promote diversification and investments to the country. We need to understand whether there are obstacles to trade and investment, and how we can better work together to implement the agreement".
During the Outreach event at the Convention Centre in Maseru, Brussels' message to the table was that trade is for all. "The benefits of the trade agreement should be accessible to consumers, workers, the self-employed and citizens at large. Small, medium and large enterprises should also reap the benefits, as well as all people in partner countries, in particular, those more in need ".
The Ministry of Trade and Industry in Lesotho has also began formulating, with support from the EU Delegation in Lesotho, a National EPA Implementation Plan geared towards helping Basotho traders sell their products within southern Africa and to the EU market.
One of the tools that the trade mission spotlighted during its visit that could help exporters is the EU Trade Helpdesk, an online platform that provides exporters with the information that they need to access the European Union market.
Visit the EU Trade Helpdesk at http://trade.ec.europa.eu/tradehelp/
For more information about the benefits of the EU-SADC EPA and the presentations that were made by the mission can be found after the jump.