The Voice, Francistown, Botswana
Southern Africa: SADC Sets Deadline for Zero Tarrif Rates Introduction
By Zeph Kajevu
13 March 2007
SADC has set 2008 as the deadline for the introduction of zero tariff rates in accordance with the minimum conditions of a Free Trade Area (FTA).
By that target date, SADC expects more than 85 per cent of regional trade to be conducted at zero tariff rates. The figure is expected to rise to 99 per cent in 2012, when tariffs for listed sensitive products should be scrapped, SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao has said
Speaking at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SADC and the US Government on the Implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade, Salomao said: "This MoU will address areas that were at the centre of the deliberations and concerns of the October 2006 SADC Ministerial Task Force and Extra-Ordinary Summit meetings.
We are today, more than ever before, closer to completing the road towards the attainment of the minimum conditions for realising the FTA status by 2008."
SADC, Salomao disclosed has been working flat out to ensure that all the facts and mechanisms concerning the implementation of the Protocol on Trade are in place, given the short time left for the finalisation of institutional frameworks, before the target date. The regional body has also embarked on preparations to prime trade requirements and related issues in line with the conditions of the proposed SADC Customs Union.
US Ambassador to Botswana Katherine Canavan said the MoU lays the groundwork for consultancy work that will effectively follow up on the first study and look into the establishment of an effective and sustainable trade compliance mechanism for SADC. Canavan who also represents US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Department within SADC said it has become evident that SADC lacks sufficient human and financial resources to monitor implementation of trade, customs and other programmes provided for in the Trade Protocol, that the US would supplement.
She said: "No price has been set for the MoU for practical reasons. As signed in the Windhoek Declaration, the US will provide special expertise and technical advice working in conjunction with SADC. When the need arises the US will outsource such services using funds set aside for the purpose, since there is a provision for cooperation extending beyond the scope of the MoU."
Through this MoU the US embassy hoped to lay groundwork for the setting up of a Monitoring and Information Unit by the end of 2007. External assistance in realising this goal which SADC has been identified as a priority, Canavan said.