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Daily Archives: December 7, 2007

SAfrica holds back signing trade pact with EU

South Africa said Wednesday it would not sign a new trade pact with the European Union until its concerns over possible "detrimental impacts" new accords could have on Africa had been addressed.

"South Africa is very much opposed to the inclusion of certain trade and services clauses in the new accord that the European Union wanted.

"We objected to that because we thought that the impact … to Africa will be detrimental," foreign ministry deputy director general Gert Grobler told journalists.

The European Commission and the 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries making up the ACP group are struggling to clinch new agreements by December 31, when current preferential trade and tariff conditions expire.

The new agreements would require ACP countries to gradually open their markets to European goods in exchange for open access to European markets from January 1, 2008, with the exception of rice and sugar.

Existing trade agreements giving preferential market access to the former colonies have to be replaced by the end of the year because the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled that they were illegal.

"They (EU) are expecting too much from African countries and we feel that it will have a devastating effect on Africa," said Grobler who said he expected the issue to be raised at this weekend's EU-Africa summit in Lisbon.

"The EU has been negotiating with a number of regional communities, such as the SADC, to arrive at a good accord," Gobler said.

An "interim" accord on the issue was signed late last month by only four southern African countries, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, he said.

"South Africa did not sign. The process (of negotiations) is ongoing. Solutions will have to be found on how we can take the process forward. It is a complicated and complex issue," he said.

If new trade deals fail to take effect in January, the wealthier African nations, including Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, will automatically face a specific band of tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation.

Russian navy boosting presence in Atlantic, Mediterranean: reports

Russia on Wednesday launched naval manoeuvres in the north Atlantic and the Mediterranean to boost its maritime presence and protect shipping, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

"From today until February 3 a deployment of ships is planned in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean. The purpose… is to ensure our naval presence and the protection of Russian shipping," Serdyukov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Taking part in the exercises will be four battleships and seven other ships of the Northern, Black Sea and Baltic fleets as well as 47 planes and 10 helicopters, he said.

"Three tactical exercises are planned involving practical and mock firing from air and sea," he said, adding that ports in 12 countries would be visited.

Russian officials have called for a strengthening of the country's naval presence in the Mediterranean, although the navy has moved to quash reports it is seeking a permanent Mediterranean naval base.

Putin has made restoring Moscow's military prestige a central priority at a time of political transition in which he is due to stand down as president next year.

The Mediterranean is a key shipping route for Russian oil exports, which come from Russia's Black Sea coast.

The latest naval manoeuvres come after the air force renewed Soviet-style long-range flights by strategic warplanes.

During the Cold War, Moscow had the use of a naval supply station in Syria, reflecting the Soviet Union's substantial influence in the Middle East.