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SACU, India in FTA discussions

The Namibian, Windhoek

9 September 2004

SACU, India in FTA discussions


AS part of positioning itself in the global economy in the ever growing global village, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is contemplating fostering closer economic ties with India.

SACU - comprising members, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland - and India met in Windhoek early this week to agree on a framework, which would serve as a basis for negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two parties.

Both parties see potential of growth in manufacturing, agro-processing and industries services among others.

Addressing journalists after deliberations of two days, the Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry, Andrew Ndishishi, said both parties had agreed on a framework agreement to be negotiated over the next three or so months and to be signed soon.

The two sides foresee a two - stage process for the purpose of concluding the comprehensive FTA.

The first stage would result in a conclusion of a limited scope agreement providing for exchange of tariff concessions on a select list of products of export interest to both sides, while the final stage shall cover a comprehensive FTA.

Ndishishi also said it was vital for both parties to conduct familiarisation tours of each other’s areas for the FTA.

"All the SACU member countries and India are members of the World Trade Organisation.

They are both committed to the multilateral trading system and believe the process of FTA shall contribute to the strengthening of the rules of International Trade and South to South cooperation," said Ndishishi.

The Joint Secretary of India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Sundaram Ramasundaram said there was opportunity for the development of a mutually beneficial trade relationship, adding that the two economies of India and SACU, complement each other.

The preamble of the draft framework agreement reads that the parties involved desire to foster closer relations between their countries and citizens, recognise that the FTA contributes to the expansion of world trade to greater international stability and in particular to development of closer relations among their people and consider that the process of economic integration includes not only gradual and reciprocal trade liberalisation but also the establishment of greater economic cooperation.