There are evident concerns within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and also The European Union (EU)-SADC trade relations. This became clear in a panel discussion I facilitated on 18 July 2018 at Farmers Weekly Agribusiness Africa Conference in Johannesburg. The theme of the session was ‘Towards a fairer, freer and friendlier trading environment’.

The panellists were from SADC and the EU regions. They discussed a number of important issues, but here are the two interesting observations, which brought about the title of this blog post.

On the SADC front — Mozambican economist, Tatiana Mata, expressed regrets about the signing of the SADC agreement – something that never crossed my mind — considering that Mozambique is the only country on the continent that belongs to the single trade block, which is the very same SADC. According to Mata, Mozambique does not see the benefits of SADC, and South Africa as the main beneficiary.

Interestingly, Mozambique is the fifth largest exporter of agricultural products amongst SADC countries, according to data from Trade Map. Hence, I was somewhat surprised by Mata’s remarks.

In terms of the EU — chicken was thrown on the table, literally and figuratively. Francois Baird, a founder of FairPlay, presented imported and local chicken portions in an attempt to illustrate the differences in quality.

The point was that the quality of local chicken is better than the imported product and that farmers are driven out of business by imports. The EU representative responded by saying that if the local chicken is of higher quality, why don’t they export chicken breast to the global market?

At this stage the debate was so heated, that I almost stopped the session, however, I thought it would be best to let everyone express themselves, freely.

Overall, these two selected cases somewhat demonstrated the views of ordinary folk towards trade. One wonders what trade agreements would look like if ordinary people were to be involved in trade negotiations? What forms would they have today? Given this experience, it would probably be impractical to conclude a trade agreement.

In these trade negotiations, perhaps, policymakers should be more open and share information that guides the decision making. For example – tell people that there are trade-offs at these negotiations. In other words, it is a give-and-take situation, and not winner takes all.

With appreciation to Mmatlou Kalaba (PhD) and Hamlet Hlomendlini for comments and amusement as I drafted these notes as a way of therapy.


Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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