Business Urged to Monitor Free-Trade Deals Closely

Business Day, Johannesburg

Business Urged to Monitor Free-Trade Deals Closely

September 22, 2004

Patrick Wadula, Senior Business Correspondent

Johannesburg

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.

This follows mounting unhappiness among labour representatives within the National Economic, Development and Labour Council that the negotiations with government at that level seemed futile.

Nactu general secretary Mahlomola Skosana told the second African Corporate Citizenship Convention in Sandton yesterday that for a company to have corporate social initiatives, there was a need for social dialogue between business and workers.

Skosana said the business community had had little input during government’s negotiations in bilateral trade agreements with other countries.

Sector associations such as those in the clothing and textile industries have raised concerns over a recent proposal for a freetrade agreement with China.

The Southern Africa Customs Union, which comprises SA, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, negotiated such an agreement with the US, but it did not include other southern African states.

"This causes conflicts between governments and unnecessary competition among companies in the region, and leads to other overseas companies seeing other southern African countries to be more investor-friendly than others," he said.

Skosana also said that the country’s state-owned enterprises had strategic partnerships with international corporations, an arrangement which, he said, had left domestic companies out of the picture.

"For sourcing of components required, instead of looking at local companies to supply, the international strategic partner was the supplier," said Skosana.

"Unless business starts making a noise about these things, we won’t go anywhere."

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