April 20, 2012 / 4:44 PM / 8 years ago

EU, Angola near deal to strengthen ties: Barroso

LUANDA (Reuters) - The European Union and Angola are close to signing a deal that will help the African country sustain its economic growth, boost good governance and fight poverty, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Friday.

Barroso praised Angola’s economic performance since the end of a long civil war a decade ago - mainly thanks to its position Africa’s second-largest oil producer after Nigeria - but said it could benefit further from closer ties with the EU.

“For Angola, it is evidently about exploring its exceptional economic potential transparently but also diversifying the economy to reduce dependence on oil, which represents 95 percent of export revenues and over 70 percent of tax income,” he said.

Angola’s economic future is also about opening up its markets for a more favourable commercial and investment climate.

“I encourage Angola to advance firmly for an economic partnership deal with the EU, which is already the country’s third-largest trade partner and main source of imports, but whose potential is far from being exhausted,” he said after meeting President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

He said progress on such a deal has been very limited.

Analysts said talks on the deal called the “Joint Way Forward” may be part of the path for the EU to obtain a strategic partnership with Angola, similar to the ones Angola has with China, the United States, Portugal and Brazil.

“Barroso had been seeking an EU strategic partnership but the Angolans have been clear they are comfortable with the ones they have right now,” Chatham House analyst and Angola expert Alex Vines said.

“This leaves the EU with the option of an Angola-EU Joint Way Forward process which is a stepping stone toward a strategic partnership,” he added.

Barroso said the closer ties could help Angola face the tough social challenges it still faces despite the economic growth, including widespread poverty, a high infant mortality rate and limited access to primary schools.

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