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SACU/US trade negotiations on

SACU/US Trade Negotiations On Tomorrow

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
September 27, 2005

The Ministry of Trade and Industry will host a meeting of the Southern African Customs Union and United States (SACU/US) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations this Wednesday and Thursday in Gaborone.

The negotiations - which are being held by the ministry for the first time - will cover mainly trade in industrial products. However, related issues are also on the agenda as discussions are likely to include labour, intellectual property rights and government procurement issues.

A statement from the ministry yesterday says the purpose of the negotiations is to reach a reciprocal agreement where all the countries will have equal rights and obligations. The FTA is also expected to strengthen trade and investment relations between the US and the five SACU member states - Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

The Gaborone meeting comes as a result of negotiations that have been going on since June 2003 when the two parties first met. The meetings alternate between the SACU region and the US.

"This meeting is expected to boost investor-confidence in Botswana and the region as companies that are operating in the region and potential investors can see that both SACU and the US are determined to facilitate trade as well as deepen investment relations through long standing arrangements," said the statement.

The ministry assured those companies that are already exporting to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) - which is a non-reciprocal trade arrangement - that the SACU governments are working on having a more permanent trade arrangement.

"In the case of Botswana, they may remember that the Global Competitiveness Hub in conjunction with the ministry launched an AGOA Forum on 12 August 2005," the ministry added. The purpose of the said forum is to develop the export sector so that more products can be exported and amongst others the forum will also address the difficulties encountered by exporters.