SACU in a string of trade talks

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE- Plans are at an advanced stage for the Southern African Customs union (SACU) to resuscitate the Preferential Trade Talks with a number of organisations and countries amongst them India.

Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse told Parliament this week that consultations at SACU level continues to pave way for the resuscitation of negotiations with India.

Seretse said the SACU-MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement entered into force on 1 April 2016 following ratification by all parties.

Both parties have, he said, commenced to put in place certain processes and measures to enable the implementation of the Agreement.

The minister further noted that the comprehensive review of the SACU-European Free Trade Association (SACU-EFTA) is still on-going and is expected to be finished by the end 2017.

“Agreement with rules of origin, tariffs and trade remedies still outstanding on Phase one negotiations on trade in goods. The Agreement remains open for signature in future for Member States,” Seretse said.

According to the minister, due to the non-conclusion of the three outstanding issues which are critical to the establishment of the Free Trade Area, Botswana did not sign the Agreement.

“Once these issues have been completed, Botswana will sign the Agreement, to expand Botswana’s market to a population of 625 million. To date, work on trade remedies has been completed and will be considered by Tripartite Committee of Senior Officials during their next meeting,” he said.

Seretse said currently work is on-going both at National and Regional levels to advance outstanding work on rules of origin and tariffs adding that once the work on Rules of Origin is completed, Botswana will sign the Agreement.

He said the SACU 2002 Agreement which was operationalized in 2004, has since been amended to include the SACU Summit within the SACU structures.

The Summit will be the highest decision-making body. Implementation of the amended Agreement came into force on 16th September 2016. SACU held a Ministerial retreat in June 2016 with the intent to provide clarity on the work that needs to be undertaken to resuscitate the SACU work programme.

Touching on another topical issue, Seretse said the EU-SADC EPA on the goods chapter was signed in June 2016 in Kasane, Botswana, and provisional implementation by the EU was on the 10th October 2016, while for SACU Member States implementation commenced on the 20th October 2016.

“We are currently working with the private sector to ensure that the economy derives optimum benefit from the negotiated Duty Free Quota Free market access,” said Seretse.

On the Southern African Development Community (SADC) The Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP), the minister said, Botswana has aligned her national plans and strategies towards embracing the regional priorities on industrialisation.

Regarding the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), Seretse said the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in June 2015 gave effect to the commencement of the CFTA negotiations scheduled for conclusion by an indicative date of December 2017.

The minister said the CFTA will expand Botswana’s market to a population of about 1.6 billion people. He revealed that the negotiations will be concluded in two phases;  Phase I entailing a two-track negotiation of trade in goods and trade in services by 2017 and Phase II covering intellectual property rights, investment and competition policy as built-in agenda.

“The African Ministers of Trade have agreed on Rules of Procedures for the CFTA negotiations, duly defined the Guiding principles of the CFTA negotiations and approved the Terms of Reference for all the Technical Working Groups. The work of the Technical Working Groups commenced in February 2017,” he said.

March 2017
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