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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


US-SACU trade talks grind to a halt
Free trade talks between the five members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the largest economy in the world have reached a dead end.
Access to Affordable Drugs: Victims of HIV/AIDS Should Not Suffer From Trade Rules
Botswana was warned last week by a UN Committee that trade agreements should not undermine Botswana’s ability to ensure access to affordable treatment for children or other people with HIV/AIDS.
Business Urged to Monitor Free-Trade Deals Closely
The National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) urged the business community yesterday to aggressively interrogate government’s action on job security and on the free-trade agreements that were being concluded with other countries.
Why SA and the US need each other
"In many ways, South Africa’s role in sub-Saharan Africa is analogous to the role of the US in the world." — US Ambassador Jendayi E Frazer
Letter urging IP be excluded from US-SACU trade negotiations
Re: Excluding Intellectual Property from negotiations over a U.S.- Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Free Trade Agreement
US begins latest round of free trade talks with SACU less hopeful about year-end deal
The US and SACU began four days of new talks aimed at concluding a free trade agreement by the end of this year, with some U.S. officials now saying, however, that the year-end deadline for completing the talks will likely be missed.
SA business oblivious to impact of FTAs
South African businesses are asleep as to how Free Trade Agreements (FTA) would impact on their business and their competitive position, says Standard Bank group economist Iraj Abedian.
US, SACU trade talks start in Lesotho
The five-nation Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the United States on Tuesday began talks in the tiny kingdom of Lesotho to finalise a free trade agreement due to be drawn up by the end of this year.
US-SACU trade talks takes on centre stage
The fourth round of negotiations between the Southern African Customs Union and the US took place this weekend in Walvis Bay, Namibia.