TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

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Thursday, 20 November 2003

Source: Engineering News (South Africa)

The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) will have to fight for certain provisions within the proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) that is currently being negotiated with the US, a (South African) Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) official said yesterday.

US-SACUSpeaking at a workshop on building business partnerships between South Africa and the US, the DTI’s director of the US Trade Division, Victor Mashabela, said special requirements of Sacu countries would not be “handed to them on a silver platter”.

“At the last meeting, the US made it clear that it wants to extract as many imports from the FTA as would benefit it,” Mashabela said, adding that the US has also been reluctant to move on issues of antidumping.

“The US is cautious about antidumping and flexibility in this area. The US negotiators have even indicated that they do not have a mandate to negotiate antidumping standards. But we keep trying to find common ground,” he pointed out.

The FTA negotiations are currently in the initial stages, but have so far achieved agreement on terms of reference, which give negotiators broad guidelines about the direction that the talks should take, Mashabela stated.

He said that it was important to remember that the FTA negotiations are taking place between countries at different levels of development and that a certain level of commitment would be required from negotiators to ensure that conditions are afforded that would protect smaller economies within Sacu.

These conditions include special differential treatment and asymmetry of trade conditions – for instance, that the US down-phases tariffs more quickly than the smaller economies.

“There should be no sense within the negotiations that all participants are equal and can engage on all aspects at the same level,” Mashabela added.

He explained that the FTA talks have been divided into two phases: the first, which started in June, deals with issues such as agricultural tariffs and trade remedies, while the second, set to start next year, would deal with such matters as investment and environment.

Negotiations around the first phase have included both parties placing proposals on the table regarding their respective approaches to aspects under discussion.

This, said Mashabela, would allow negotiators to proceed on the basis of a joint text and common ground at the next round of talks.

He commented that, whereas the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) was a very important facilitator of trade between South Africa and the US and has driven economic growth in South Africa, Agoa was “not perfect”.

The Act, which lapses in 2008, created difficulties for stability and investor confidence in South Africa and, thus, falls short in terms of having a big effect on the country’s economy, Mashabela argued.

“That is why South Africa has joined the call for the extension of Agoa,” he added.

Gillian Manovanovic, deputy US ambassador to South Africa, said FTA negotiations would seek to build on the success of Agoa, which has ensured that total South African exports to the US have reached $588-million so far this year – an improvement of $158-million over the same period last year.

She said the US would seek a comprehensive agreement that would level the playing field where the European Union FTA disadvantages US exports to Africa.

An FTA would give Sacu fast and secure access to the $10-trillion US economy, while increasing trade and investment in line with the objects of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Manovanovic commented.



Latest AGOA Trade Data on AGOA.info

Click to view sector profiles of SACU countries’ bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated into total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.
[ South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. ]


For more about AGOA click here .

Other regularly updated trade statistics on AGOA.info include:

  • All Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Overview

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.