Southern Africa Customs Union agrees to jointly negotiate trade agreements

Bloomberg | Mar 25, 2011

Southern Africa Customs Union agrees to jointly negotiate trade agreements

By Franz Wild

The Southern African Customs Union, a group of five countries including South Africa, agreed to jointly negotiate future trade agreements, said Rob Davies, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister.

This will include trade talks with India and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc, Davies told reporters today in the capital, Pretoria, after a SACU heads-of-state meeting. Existing agreements won’t be affected, he said.

“We’ve finally been able to agree on a set of principles” to ensure all future trade talks are done collectively, Davies said.

SACU was formed more than a hundred years ago, giving South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, the right to steer regional policies while sharing customs and excise revenue with neighboring countries Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia. Income from the union, which makes up more than half of the budgets of Swaziland and Lesotho, declined in the past two years because of the global economic crisis.

In 2009, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland signed separate economic partnership agreements, or EPAs, with the European Union, angering South Africa.

SACU also agreed to an “urgent” review of terms under which revenue is shared out among its members, the group’s Executive Secretary Tswelopele Moreni said today.

Thousands of people marched in Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane on March 18 to protest against possible job cuts and a civil service wage freeze as the government struggles to find ways to deal with a budget crisis.

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source: Bloomberg