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The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. It was established in 1910, making the oldest customs union in the world. The SACU agreement was revised in 1969 and in 2002.

As a customs union, the members implement one common external tariff with outside countries and charge no duties on trade between them.

SACU is increasingly involved in bilateral FTAs with foreign trade partners, mainly because it forms a single customs territority with South Africa as its powerhouse economy:

 In 2003, SACU started FTA talks with the US, but these were grounded by mid-2006 due to Washington’s high demands. In 2008, a Trade and Investment Development Cooperation Agreement was signed instead, as an interim measure towards a full and final FTA.
 In April 2005, SACU signed a preferential trade agreement with the southern Latin American bloc Mercosur, its first FTA. The agreement was revised, to incorporate further protocols, in April 2008.
 In 2006, SACU signed an FTA with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).

In 2010, the SACU Secretariat also commissioned a study into a potential SACU-East African Community (EAC) trade agreement. In 2011, SACU agreed to a set of principles to guide FTAs, and prioritized pursuing deals with Mercosur and India.

The ambitious project to forge an FTA between India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) may actually revolve around India, Mercosur and SACU.

last update: May 2012
Photo: GovernmentZA/CC BY-ND 2.0

SACU busy with painful discussions, says Manuel
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is having very painful discussions at the moment in Swaziland on its very future, said Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, Trevor Manuel.
Development Through Trade
Institutional development is considered important in empowering the Southern African Customs Union’s (Sacu’s) secretariat to play a significant role in regional policy development and the associated policy-making structures.
Day of reckoning for customs union’s fate
The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) council of ministers is gathering in Windhoek today for a meeting that is likely to be dominated by the acrimonious Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union (EU).
Policy delay hits textile industry
Policy paralysis in the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) is compounding problems for the region’s struggling clothing and textiles industry.
Lefhoko urges entrepreneurs to look beyond SACU
The Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Duke Lefhoko, has urged manufacturers to widen their marketing scope beyond the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), given the impending new trade arrangements that Botswana is negotiating with other countries.
Secretariat powers SACU to new heights
The executive secretary of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Tswelelopele Moremi has said the organisation has achieved a lot since the establishment of its secretariat.
Ministers of customs union meet in Botswana this week
Trade and finance ministers of the five-nation Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) will meet in Botswana tomorrow to discuss deeper regional integration and challenges like the pending trade agreement with the European Union.
Guiding ourselves by the African stars
What does the “grand debate” about a United States of Africa have to do with the fate of SA’s provinces?
Africa ‘must rationalise on trade blocs’
SA and the rest of southern Africa needed to rationalise trade blocs to allow for stronger and larger regional economic communities, said Finance Minister Trevor Manuel yesterday.
Calls for removal of regional trade barriers
Civil society organisations and the business community in southern Africa have called for review of trade policies in order to deepen regional integration.