Antwerp U-turns on diamond single node

Talks continuing: Negotiations are proceeding within the G7 ahead of the September start-date for the single node PIC: SHUTTERSTOCK
Talks continuing: Negotiations are proceeding within the G7 ahead of the September start-date for the single node PIC: SHUTTERSTOCK

The stand-off between the G7 and African diamond producing nations over the selection of Belgium as a single node for certification of diamonds, is closer to resolution after Antwerp called for more verification points outside the G7.

In a statement yesterday, the Antwerp World Diamond Council (AWDC) which is acting as the G7’s industry representative and expert, said a workable traceability system was important for all parties. The Council said it was critical that the trade of non-sanctioned diamonds is not disrupted.

“At this moment in time, conversations on G7 and EU level, with AWDC acting as industry representative and expert, about the further implementation of the G7 measures are continuing,” the statement reads. “During these conversations, as AWDC, we are pro-actively advocating for the implementation of one or more additional rough verification points outside the G7. “We believe this is a necessary step in the further development towards a control system that meets the interest of all stakeholders involved, in particular those of African producing countries.”

The Council said the conversations are progressing constructively, and parties are working towards an “effective and efficient control system with focus on sanctioned goods”.

“That is why we hope all other G7 and EU parties will support our call to explore opportunities to set up rough verification points outside the G7/EU,” the AWDC said.

The latest position will come as relief for African diamond producers, particularly Botswana which has rallied the continent against the G7’s plans to establish Antwerp as the single node for diamond verification.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi roped in Namibia and Angola and authored a letter to the G7 requesting the group to reconsider the single node in Antwerp. Masisi has also lobbied other countries to support Botswana’s position on the issue.

“They want to arrest this value and keep it in Antwerp,” Masisi said recently. “But they don’t have diamonds. “So yes, we will tussle and wrestle and win some and forego some, but we cannot allow, or agree to an attempt to undermine our quest for development by taking charge and responsibility of our own value addition of our resources. “When you make Antwerp the single node for verification, gosh what impudence when we mine our diamonds here and we are certain they are mined here.”

The G7, which comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and other industrialised states, is adopting tough new rules to stop Russian stones from entering the global diamond industry. Russia is the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds by volume and while the US long imposed sanctions due to the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s diamonds continue to freely trade in the market and into the US.

Amongst its various elements, the G7’s plans involve all polished diamonds being sent to a single node for certification that the stones are not of Russian origin. The G7 have selected Antwerp to be that node, and the technical team was in Gaborone to kickstart consultations towards developing a traceability system that will have the certification running by September.

The G7’s move represents a swing back to Europe for global diamonds at a time when Africa and Botswana specifically is positioning itself as the centre of the global diamond industry.

Government has said the move involves back and forths to Antwerp, higher costs and logistical nightmares at a time when the industry is reeling from a downturn in demand that has depressed prices and rocked producers, polishers, jewellers and diamond-dependent economies such as Botswana.

The AWDC’s about-turn comes in a week in which reports have emerged indicating that the United States is breaking away from the G7’s position of a single verification node in Antwerp. The US, which represents more than 50% of the retail market for diamonds, reportedly prefers “self-declaration and audits” rather than a single node in Antwerp.

Edahn Golan, a prominent diamond industry analyst, was quoted as saying the US appears to be taking into consideration complaints by African producers and the Indian manufacturers.

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