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SACU to explore becoming Economic Community Monetary union

Business Section

By Teetee Zwane - SWAZI OBSERVER-21-Sep-2009

DESPITE recent challenges facing the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the organisation has decided to explore the possibilities of moving towards an Economic Community Monetary union.

During a special council meeting attended by trade and finance ministers, the Council agreed to follow the principle of unified engagement amongst SACU member states in trade negotiations with third parties, including in the Southern African Development Community/European Commission (SADC-EC) interim economic partnership agreement (IEPA) and EPA negotiations.

Representing Swaziland were Finance Minister Majozi Sithole and Commerce, Industry and Trade Minister Jabulile Mashwama. This comes after an impasse that has been threatening the existence of the oldest customs union in the world, following a decision by three member states, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland to sign IEPAs with the European Union (EU) while South Africa and Namibia refused.

Following this development, South Africa issued a warning that it may be forced to strengthen customs controls within the region to avoid the transshipment of EU exports to the South African market through Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The SACU Secretariat has said it is a challenge for the customs union that its members were party to two separate trade regimes as South Africa trades with the EU under the Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement (TCDA) while the other members had previously traded with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement which expired in 2007.

“There was therefore a need to harmonise these two trade regimes with the EU in order to adhere to the objectives of the customs union, which are a common external tariff in relation to trade with third parties and the free movement of goods among its members,” said the Secretariat in a press statement. “Council emphasised that trade negotiations remain an important element in forging trade relations with third parties. In doing so, due consideration should be given to SACU member states’ different levels of development and capacity.”

The Council agreed to develop a SACU trade and tariff policy as well as a trade strategy that support industrialisation in SACU. It has also agreed that the customs union should ensure that all work on agricultural policy, competition policy, unfair trade practices and other priority commitments in the SACU Agreement were being implemented.

The members also agreed to develop initiatives to promote intra-SACU trade. In addition, the Council also recognised the growing importance of building South-South economic relations, acknowledging the impact of the global economic crisis on the customs union.


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