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SA to state objections to trade treaties

Business Day, South Africa

SA to state objections to trade treaties

By Linda Ensor

8 September 2009

CAPE TOWN — SA is expected to reiterate its objections to the economic partnership agreements signed between the European Union (EU) and three members of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu), which it believes will have disruptive effects, at a summit in Kleinmond on Friday.

The agreements will not be the main issue for discussion. T he summit will focus on the global financial crisis, international political developments, SA’s broad relationship with the EU on a wide range of issues, and climate change.

However, the agreements would be on the agenda, trade and industry deputy director-general for international trade Xavier Cariem said yesterday. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is likely to strongly argue that the agreements would undermine integration with in southern Africa.

SA has been a strong critic of the partnership agreements, which it says would undermine the integrity of Sacu and threaten the country with a flood of cheap clothing and textile imports.

Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho have signed the agreements. SA and Namibia refused to do so.

The interim agreements will result in there being five separate trade relations with the EU within the Southern African Development Community, which will make it extremely difficult to achieve policy and tariff harmonisation. Cariem said the next step would be to convene a meeting with the EU over the next few months in a bid to resolve the issues in dispute.

Trade and industry chief director Mzukisi Qobo told Parliament’s international relations committee last week that SA wanted Sacu to be a vehicle for deepening regional integration and would pursue this agenda. But this would not be possible if the partnership agreements were not changed to take account of SA’s objections.

SA has a separate Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement with the EU, which has just been subject to a midterm review. Amendments to strengthen co-operation on matters such as customs and revenue services, transport and communications are to be signed.

SA’s summit delegation will be led by President Jacob Zuma and will include International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica. With BuaNews