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Sacu, EU to sign interim economic partnership agreement next week

Engineering News | 27 Jun 08

Sacu, EU to sign interim economic partnership agreement next week

By: Chanel Pringle

The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) plans to sign an interim economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) next week, it said on Friday, during its fifteenth Council of Ministers meeting held in Midrand.

At the end of 2007, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland had all decided to initiate an Interim EPA with the EU, but South Africa had decided against doing so.

The union on Friday said all five of its members were now working together, and that the union intended to sign an interim EPA with the EU by July 1.

"All Sacu member countries have strong trade ties with the EU, but we are still negotiating towards the full EPA," commented Sacu policy development and research director Anton Faul.

He added that the union would first address the areas of concern among its member countries, before signing a full EPA with the EU, but said it wanted to do this as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Sacu was also preparing itself for the planned establishment of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Customs Union by 2010, and the effects that could have on Sacu members.

Sacu executive secretary Tswelopele Moremi commented that the union could not say whether the SADC Customs Union would be established by 2010, but that it was looking at how the union could best relate to the decisions taken by the broader Southern African community.

However, she noted that there were some implications for Sacu members, as they could not belong to two customs unions at the same time.


Meanwhile, South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel commented at the meeting that food, fuel and finance costs were big challenges that finance and trade ministers in the Southern African region were facing.

Sacu chairperson and Botswana’s finance and development planning minister Baledzi Gaolathe agreed that the region was faced with rising inflation, owing to escalating food and oil prices.

"As a result, interest rates are also rising, making it difficult for borrowers to maintain their repayments with the banking sector. This dire situation is even worse for the low-income households, who are finding it difficult to survive. In a region where poverty levels remain above 50%, this is truly a cause for concern," he said.

Edited by: Mariaan Olivier

 source: Engineering News