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US-SACU

The US began negotiating a free trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union — composed of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland — in June 2003. The talks first got stalled in mid-2004, largely because of the US’ extreme and inflexbile demands regarding intellectual property rights. Around July-September 2005, officials started trying to reignite the process by chopping the FTA negotiating items into "bite size pieces". By early 2006, the process was looking like it would still go nowhere and in April that year it was suspended.

From the start, the prospects of a US-SACU accord raised a lot of fears in the subregion, if past US free trade agreements are anything to go by. The demands put forward by the US — especially in terms of investment and intellectual property, including patents on drugs and seeds — would be quite radical for the SACU countries.

While the talks were stalled, the US administration reportedly began looking into the possibility of negotiating bilaterals FTAs with individual sub-Saharan African countries. Washington also proposed that the US and SACU adopt a Trade and Investment Cooperation agreement — more than a TIFA, but less than an FTA — as step towards a full-fledged FTA.

On 16 July 2008, the US Trade Representative and the SACU Trade Ministers signed a Trade and Investment Development Cooperation Agreement. The TIDCA is meant to be a stepping stone to a full FTA, so the process is still in motion.

last update: May 2012


Departing from USTR, Portman leaves dead US-Southern Africa negotiations behind
Today, as US Trade Rep. Robert Portman stepped down to run the Office of Management and Budget, civil society organizations in the US and South Africa are applauding the rejection of the USTR’s efforts to revive the US-Southern Africa Customs Union Free Trade Agreement (US-SACU FTA) negotiations.
Is the US trade agenda coming apart at the seams?
US activists for trade justice dubbed the week of April 16 as the week of action. By the end of the week, thanks to key events revealing an unraveling of the Bush administration’s free trade agenda, trade activists campaigning for a more just global trade system celebrated victory.
US, SACU trade talks proves far-fetched
The US will look for other ways to kick-start investment in southern Africa.
Sacu talks resume with US
Interview with Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia.
US, SA union fail to reach consensus on free trade
The US government and the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) have failed to reach consensus regarding the establishment of a free trade agreement. Unrealistic demands by the US government are said to be at the centre of the failed talks.
US refuses to budge ahead of S. Africa trade talks
The United States hopes to agree a road-map with southern Africa on reaching a trade pact this week but will not budge on key issues that have previously stalled talks, a top official said on Monday.
’Inflexible US threatens southern Africa free-trade deal’
South Africa has urged the United States to be more flexible in negotiations towards a free-trade pact with southern Africa, warning that current talks may fail to secure a deal.
Equitable trade and Southern Africa: A cookie cutter approach will cost lives and livelihoods
Statement of the US-SACU FTA Working Group
No to free trade with US
Trade experts say the United States is demanding far deeper market access than South Africa is willing to give, particularly in the area of services that are covered by regulatory protection rather than tariffs.
SACU/US trade negotiations on
Botswana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry will host a meeting of the Southern African Customs Union and United States (SACU/US) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations this week in Gaborone.