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Secretariat powers SACU to new heights

Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone

Secretariat Powers SACU to New Heights

8 April 2008

By Tumelo Setshogo, Gaborone

The executive secretary of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Tswelelopele Moremi has said the organisation has achieved a lot since the establishment of its secretariat.

She told a media briefing on the outcome of the 14th SACU council of ministers meeting in Phakalane Golf Estates on Friday that SACU has made great strides in the development of various instruments like tariff board, national bodies, SACU single origin, mutual administration document and capacity building. "Establishment of a permanent institution which in this case is the secretariat, mobilisation of technical liaison committees and the commission and the common external tariff have been achieved to date," she said.

The Commissions and Technical Liaison Committees (CTLC) are a continuation of institutions that existed under the 1969 SACU agreement which provides a broad mandate. Moremi said the work of the Tariff Board, the Tribunal and the Common Negotiating Mechanism (CNM) will be broadened under new initiatives.

She added that SACU has facilitated trade and adopted five customs initiatives which are, one stop border post arrangement, single administrative document, joint border controls cooperation programme, electronic data interchange and capacity.

Speaking on cross membership-when members belong to other regional integration arrangement which have plans to establish a Customs Union(CU), SACU chairman Baledzi Gaolathe said each country will have to make up its mind and stick to one CU.

All SACU members belong to SADC, which has plans to form a CU next year, while Swaziland is already a member of Comesa. Comesa plans to establish a CU by the end of this year.

As a way of enhancing the five adopted customs initiatives, SACU is working with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to develop a Custom Reform and Modernisation Program. Moremi said that they anticipate the implementation of these initiatives will reduce transaction costs and create a more predictable environment for conducting trade in SACU.

However, she lamented that the implementation pace is slower than expected and called for varying levels of capacity in member states to implement and finance programmes.

Moremi said that the debate on deepening regional integration and future revenue sharing within SACU and SADC is needed to make sure that the potential decreasing of customs revenue is prevented by identifying alternative revenue resources.

Moremi said the council of ministers encouraged member states to negotiate to preserve the integrity of SACU, specifically in Common External Tariff (CET) to achieve the fundamental aim of the 2002 agreement which is to integrate SACU into the world economy through trade negotiations.

She said that efforts, which are to ensure the integrity of CET and address member states’ interests in their trade with the EU are underway to address the challenges posed by the SADC-EU EPA negotiations. Moremi said the meeting emphasised the importance of ensuring that existing and future economic arrangements contribute to deepening of regional economic integration. The next meeting will be held in Lesotho at a date to be confirmed.

The meeting is attended by ministers of finance and trade from the five member states namely, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.