Antwerp Dealers Worried Over EU’s Proposed Kimberley Changes

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(Rapaport…October 4, 2002) Just two days after several industry leaders in New York held an optimistic meeting with the United States special negotiator on the Kimberley Process, an article published in the Johannesburg Business Day put a much bleaker outlook on the proposed regulations’ effect on the diamond trade.

The article addressed how the European Union (EU) will implement Kimberley, focusing on the EU’s plan to demand certification of existing inventories — which goes beyond the measures agreed to in Ottawa by participating countries. It quoted two Antwerp manufacturers as saying the EU’s plans to insist on regulation of existing stocks would have a terrible effect on their business.

Charles Wyndham of WWW International Diamond Consultants said Belgium’s very status as the world’s diamond capital could be threatened by the proposed rules, set to take effect January 1.

“If Antwerp loses its flexibility, the essential lubrication for the diamond business, there is no doubt that it will be threatened as the world center,” Wyndham said. “To assume that its position is sacrosanct would be very dangerous. The issue is not whether regulations are implemented, but that such regulations must be practical while satisfying the needs to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds.”

Eli Izhakoff, chairman of the World Diamond Council (WDC), said he understands and shares the concerns of the traders in Antwerp.

“The WDC’s position, of course, is that we stick to the Kimberley Process agreement,” Izhakoff said. “Anything beyond what was agreed to in the Kimberley Process document is completely unacceptable. Furthermore, we must make sure that we are not going to burden or interrupt the flow of diamonds in any way.”

Daniel Horowitz, an Antwerp dealer, predicted the EU plans would not see the light of day. “I think it unlikely the proposal will be implemented,” he said. “I don’t see it solving the problem. The problem lies entirely with the producing countries who have to control the mines.”

In the United States on the other hand, representatives of several facets of the diamond industry emerged from an October 2 meeting with the U.S. Kimberley negotiator, Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, optimistic about how the rules will be implemented by the world’s largest diamond consumer.

The U.S. will insist on certification beginning January 1, with no grace period, but will leave much of the details up to the industry, Bindenagel said.

Meanwhile some of Antwerp’s largest diamond firms are being lured to emerging trade centers like Dubai out of fears of what the EU will implement, according to Business Day. De Beers is opening an office there, the paper claimed for the second time in a month — without citing a source. De Beers spokeswoman Lynette Hori denies the firm has any plans to open an office in Dubai, calling the idea “completely false.”

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