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SA Customs Union may resume talks with the US

SABC News, South Africa

SA Customs Union may resume talks with the US

6 November 2008

A high-ranking government official has hinted that the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) may resume free trade talks with the US following the election of Democratic candidate Barack Obama to America’s high office. Trade and Industry Director-General, Tshediso Matona, says Obama’s election can result in a mutually beneficial trade term with the US. Matona was speaking to journalists in Cape Town this morning.

Free trade talks between the US and Sacu were put on hold four years ago and were expected to build on the success of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). The act has boosted South African exports by around 45%. However, South Africa and the US failed to agree on terms around free trade. Buoyed by Obama’s election, it seems Sacu is prepared to return to the discussion table.

“When we suspended the negotiations, we had said that we will return to that process when conditions allow it and I suppose that the victory of President Obama in the US does change conditions for us, to explore again whether we can conclude a mutually beneficial agreement."

On the other hand, SA is still waging a battle with European countries and at the heart of it is the European Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Although several countries have signed pre-agreements, South Africa and Angola have refused to do so because they argue that the EPAs are not fair to Africa.

Matona says the EPAs will divide the Southern African Development Community region should they eventually go through. He says a delegation is currently in Brussels in an attempt to push for a breakthrough.