TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

SACU-US FTA Negotiators Hope to Reach Agreement

Thursday, 07 August 2003

Source: BuaNews (Pretoria)

Mr Xavier Carim, South Africa' Chief Director for Trade negotiations, says the Southern African Custom Union (SACU) and the United States will find ways to manage 'sensitive issues' such as agricultural subsidies as negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) progresses.

Briefing the media after the second round of the FTA's two-day long negotiations in Johannesburg yesterday, Mr Carim said the sensitive issues of agricultural subsidies, textile and clothing would be 'managed' come the 2004 deadline.

'There are areas on Sacu's side where we would have some sensitivities. Clearly, issues around agricultural subsidies are areas of concern and we have to find a way to deal with that,' said Mr Carim.

'This is an important issue even in the World Trade Organisation. Where there's an area that is sensitive to one country or member we have to find ways to work around it,' he said.

Mr Carim led Sacu, a body composed of countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland for the second round of negotiations of the FTA with the US.

The negotiations aim to increase economic benefits from the US' Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that was signed into law by former US president Bill Clinton in 2000.

Through enhanced trade relations and a mutual opening of their markets Sacu and the US aims to construct a platform that bolsters growth and development and serves to integrate the region fully into the global economy.

Sacu also seeks to change the structure of its trade into a more balanced and mutually beneficial relationship based on high value exports and enhanced investment.

The two parties discussed principles and provisions in areas such as agriculture, industrial, trade, standards, customs procedures, investments and services during the second round.

Mr Carim added that the US submitted a draft text to guide negotiations on which areas the US would like to discuss such as how to establish 'safe guards' in agriculture and definitions of custom duties.

Sacu's text is currently being developed, he said.

Florie Liser, Assistant US Trade Representative in Africa, said the current negotiations further consolidated the foundation that was laid by the first round held in June this month.

She said the FTA would go beyond AGOA, which benefited SACU but instead increase trade between US and the Union.

'The FTA goes beyond AGOA but covers areas that were not covered by AGOA, such as standards,' said Ms Liser.

The third round of negotiations will be held in October in Washington DC and both parties are set to conclude negotiations by the end of 2004.