TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

South Africa: Trade Team in U.S. in Bid to Revive SACU Talks

Friday, 24 February 2006

Source: Business Day

A Delegation from the trade and industry department is in the US this week on a mission to save the stalled trade talks between the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and the US.

Local trade experts said yesterday that the mission came amid growing signs that the US may put the talks on the back burner if they were not concluded soon.

The delegation, led by the department's acting director-general, Tshediso Matona, is in the US to meet that country's trade officials on the state of the bilateral talks between the US and Sacu, which comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, SA and Swaziland (see the direct link to SACU's trade with the U.S. below).

The US is an important trading partner for Sacu countries. About 40% of Sacu exports currently enter the US duty-free under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and the Generalised System of Preferences.

South African Institute of International Affairs research fellow Peter Draper said yesterday because of Agoa's limited shelf time, it was important for Sacu to "lock in" the benefits they enjoyed under the law.

"Other countries which have free trade agreements with the US have been able to do that. So there is a chance of the Sacu countries losing market access (if the negotiations fail)," Draper said. The preference scheme was being reviewed, he said. "There is a chance that SA will graduate from it".

US Trade Representative Rob Portman reportedly told the US congress recently that the country might have to give up on trade talks that have dragged for too long.

Portman's statement has raised fears that the talks with Sacu could be put on the back burner "if not completely dropped", Draper said.

Another trade expert, Hilton Zunckel of law firm Floor Incorporated, said yesterday the attitude of the US trade authorities had a lot to do with the expiry of the Trade Promotion Authority.

In terms of the negotiation, congress does not have to amend trade deals that the US enters into.

Matona was this week quoted in US trade newspaper The Washington Trade Daily as saying there had been problems in the negotiations because of difficulty in finding "an appropriate model" that would take into account the economic differences between the US and the southern African countries "as opposed to a template that is inflexible and that is being applied all over the world by the US".



“SACU Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on AGOA.info


Click here to view a sector profile of SACU Countries’ bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.


Other regularly updated trade statistics on AGOA.info include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • 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.