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Ministers of customs union meet in Botswana this week

The Namibian, Windhoek

Ministers of Customs Union Meet in Botswana This Week

3 April 2008

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.

The trade agreement will force several concessions from African countries - like slashing tariffs on imports from Europe in a few months’ time - and will considerably reduce Sacu revenue for member countries.

Namibia derives a third of its annual revenue from Sacu, which also has South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho as members.

Revenue from tariffs will decrease as the EU agreement comes into effect gradually.

Another challenge is the envisaged free trade area by 2010 and the formation of a larger regional customs union under the banner of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) a few years later.

SADC has 14 member states and the five Sacu members also belong to this larger regional body.

The Sacu Council of Ministers will also discuss trade negotiations with third parties like the USA, India and countries in South America to promote investment, expand and diversify trade between Sacu and these news potential trading partners.

The EFTA community is another trading group of countries that Sacu has signed a trade agreement with.

It awaits implementation.

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a trade bloc established as an alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to, join the EU.

Members are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Namibia exports meat to Norway.

"The Friday meeting in Gaborone comes at a time when Sacu faces a number of key challenges, especially with regard to the custom union’s relations with third parties," the Sacu secretariat based in Windhoek said in a statement this week.

"These challenges will increase in the course of 2008 as participation in multilateral and regional negotiations becomes more demanding and complex."

"The Council is committed to addressing the challenges faced by the organisation in order for the 2002 Sacu agreement, which is about the promotion of regional and global integration, to be fully realised for the benefit of its member states," the secretariat noted.