Trade to top agenda at S.Africa-EU summit

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Trade and diplomatic ties between the largest economies in Africa and Europe will top the agenda at the fourth annual South Africa-European Union summit on September 15, an official said Tuesday.

The high-level meeting will focus on "national issues, regional and African issues and trade," Roeland van de Geer, the EU's ambassador to South Africa, told journalists.

He said the summit would also discuss South Africa's preparations to host the next major round of UN climate talks from November 28 to December 9 in the eastern port city of Durban.

The EU has given South Africa six million euros ($8.7 million) toward the climate conference, which activists are calling a last-ditch chance to renew the emissions reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

"We think South Africa has the moral authority to bring (the climate talks) forward," Van de Geer said.

EU President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton are all expected at the meeting, to be held at Kruger National Park, South Africa's largest.

South African President Jacob Zuma will head his country's delegation.

The two sides have been engaged in delicate negotiations over an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

But Van de Geer said the summit would produce no final agreement on an EPA, because South Africa did not want to speak on behalf of the other 14 member states in the SADC regional bloc.

"It's a long-term negotiation," he said.

"But trade is blooming.... I expect both sides will say: Okay, this is a very important part of our relation."

The EU is South Africa's largest trading partner, accounting for 26 percent of South Africa's total trade.

At the 2009 edition of the summit, the European Commission launched a 100-million-euro programme aimed at boosting job creation and stimulating economic growth in South Africa.

© 2011 AFP

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