12 Aug 2008
12 August 2008
Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa’s briefing
One of the key milestones for the 2008 SADC Summit is the launch of the SADC Free Trade Area. The adoption of the 1996 Maseru Trade Protocol, which entered into force in January 2000, paved a way for the launch of the FTA. SADC member states commenced with the implementation of the Trade Protocol in September 2000. One of the objectives of the Trade
Protocol was to establish a Free Trade Area over a period of eight years.
The SADC Free Trade Area has been notified to the WTO and examination was done during the meeting of the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements held in May 2007 in
An Audit Study conducted in 2007/8 on the implementation of the Trade Protocol concluded that although some countries are experiencing problems in implementing their tariff phase down commitments, the region as a whole has nevertheless achieved liberalization of 85% of intra-SADC trade as of January 2008 and therefore meeting the WTO requirement that
substantially all trade among countries in a trade block be duty free. SADC is therefore on target to achieving the overall objectives of 85 % of all intra-SADC trade at zero tariffs by 2008 and the remaining 15% to be liberalized fully by 2012.
However, we need to recognize that regional economic integration is not only about the removal of tariff barriers in our region. The launch of the FTA is not an end in itself but a beginning of a process we need to embark on to build both our productive and trade capacity, improve
competitiveness of our industries and address the supply –side constraints that inhibit us form benefiting to better terms of trade in the region. We need to focus on expanding our agriculture and industrial base to promote intra-regional trade. A strong industrial drive is essential in promoting structural diversification of our economies.
More work first needs to be done to consolidate the FTA and make it work by addressing non-tariff barriers, including trade facilitation measures, harmonising industrial and competition policies and liberalise trade in service. The focus going forward should be on addressing the
real economic constraints that hinder deeper integration in our region.
Infrastructure development is also an essential element for creating conditions that would advance the integration agenda and would have to be prioritised. It is my strong belief that the private sector has a key role to play, especially in the area of regional infrastructure.
This is an area that needs attention to ensure that we expand markets; improve market access; and integrate national and regional markets. The lack of regional infrastructure is a major barrier to regional integration and development.
However, the concern remains about the potential impact of the outcomes of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union which is likely to derail our integration efforts. All SADC countries are participating in EPAs with the EU, but in four separate configurations.
All these EPAs differ in terms of having different tariff liberalization obligations to the EU. This will complicate the process of establishing a SADC Customs Union especially agreeing on a Common External Tariff. We therefore, need to re-evaluate our priorities given the challenges
and endeavour to find practical solutions to deepen SADC integration.
The Ministers responsible for energy have adopted the Power Sector Investment roadmap with the aim of overcoming the diminished power surplus capacity in the region. The heads of State will thus consider the roadmap.
Food security is also among the critical challenges facing not only the region but also a global phenomenon. The
The following draft protocols will be considered, draft protocol on gender and development and the draft protocol on science, technology and innovation among others.
As the incoming Chair of SADC, South Africa's strategy will rest on three pillars namely:
Deepening regional economic integration Intensifying regional infrastructure development
Restoring and strengthening the political unity and cohesion
One of the things I would like to add is that you would recall that the Maseru Summit of the Heads of State did, precisely for reasons of recognising the need to have a greater focus on deepening our regional integration, establish a Ministerial Task Force on regional integration.
This is Task Force that consists of Ministers of Trade, of Finance, Investment and Economic Development from the region. This is a Task Force that has been working. It is one of the reasons why we were able to bring this greater focus even on ensuring that we indeed launch the
Free Trade Area in 2008 as we had intended. Of course the regional date was planned to be 1 January 2008 but it was then decided that we'd do this during the
The other important remit of this Task Force has been the issue of a road map towards a Customs Union for our region. And so this is one of the reports that will be considered by the
This is a very important part of our work because our regional indicative strategic development programme has got 2008 as the target date for the Free Trade Area and 2010 as the date for the Customs Union. Those dates remain. They are the basis for the work that we are doing.
The importance of this work on the road map is that it is through an examination of such a road map that you can truly assess the ability of the region to achieve that Customs Union by 2010. This is one of the reports that will be submitted at the
reports directly to the Heads of State because it was established as a special vehicle to do this work of looking at deepening regional integration.
Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad’s briefing
The Minister has quite sufficiently covered the importance of this SADC Summit. Let me just add a few things. As you are aware, SADC is the primary vehicle for
As the Minister has indicated, we do this because we are quite convinced that South Africa's future is inextricably linked to the future of the African continent and indeed, more specifically, to our neighbours in Southern Africa.
This is an opportune time because the AU Summit in Sharm El Sheik a few months ago took the decision to accelerate the processes of the formation of an African Government which will lead to the United States of Africa. But also decided that this must be a process and that the RECs, the Regional Economic blocks of which SADC is one, are important building blocks to lead to an African Government.
At this Summit we have to, as the Minister has indicated, launch the Free Trade Area, look at the possibilities of moving according to the time-frames of the 2010 Customs Union, and in the context of that see how we can accelerate SADC integration processes to help us reach the
stage when we can move towards an African Government, which will eventually lead to the United States of Africa.
This is vital because we have been, over the past few years, going into discussions on whether we should immediately establish the African Government or whether we should develop on the building blocks. We can't continue to argue as
blocks are essential unless we take some major decisions, as the Minister has indicated, at this
The formal launch of the Free Trade Area is scheduled to take place on SADC Day, 17 August, from 11h00 to 13h00, and this will be an open session.
Given the many challenges we face, there's going to be a new innovation at this
Agreements and its impact on integration, as the Minister has hinted. All demands that we give an opportunity to the Heads of State to go to a retreat. And so, on the afternoon of 16 August the Heads of State will move out of the formal meetings with all the officials and go to a retreat where they will be able to have a better environment to engage openly and frankly on all the key issues that we are facing in the region.
An important element will be the report by the Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, and that's
Other issues that will be dealt with under this Organ will be illegal immigration, terrorism, the phenomenon of mercenaries, the energy crisis, the food crisis, disaster management and mitigation, the challenges resulting from the hosting of the 2010 World Cup, the progress re the operationalisation of the SADC Brigade, SADC member states' involvement in peacekeeping operations. It is quite impressive how many SADC states are involved in UN and AU peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Finally, the progress we are making in the
early-warning system which will enable us to deal with conflicts before they happen.
It is quite an extensive agenda. The Ministerial meeting on integration will take place tomorrow (Wednesday 13 August). The Council of Ministers will meet on Thursday and Friday and the Heads of State will meet on Saturday and Sunday.
We do believe that out of this Summit and under our Chairpersonship we must ensure that we are able to take the processes of integration to a much higher level, staring with the Free Trade Area and then moving much faster integrating our economies, the free movement of people, better
movement of goods and services in order for us to make sure that SADC does become the powerful institution it can be and has to be.
It is clear that a successful SADC regional economic bloc will make a major impact on other regional economies in
We do hope that when you come to the launch of the FTA you will get further information on initiatives we will be taking during our Chairpersonship in order to accelerate the process of development in SADC and in the African continent.
Questions and Answers
Question: We have heard
Answer: (DM Pahad)
The question of who is going to come and who is not going to come, we don't know. The talks are continuing in
decisions coming out of
Question: Minister Pahad, there was a two week deadline given on the Zimbabwe talks, was there an expectation that come the SADC meeting there would have been a deal sealed?
Answer: Deputy Minister Pahad - No. As you know, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government and the two MDC factions. In that Memorandum it was hoped that all the discussions would be completed within two weeks. These are just time-frames you
Clearly there are some issues that still have to be resolved. They adjourned yesterday because of the Heroes Day celebrations during the day. They met late last and will start the talks today.
This thing was not planned in preparation to get some result before the summit. It is just coincidental that things moved as they moved and it just coincided with the SADC Summit.
Of course SADC would want to get a response from the Facilitation. President Mbeki is facilitating on behalf of SADC. They will expect some response. We are all praying and hoping it will be a positive response, which will then help us to move more decisively into doing
what we have to do, such as dealing with the economic integration, dealing with poverty and under-development, dealing with all the challenges that we have identified. We hope that there will positive results coming out of the talks.
Minister Mpahlwa - I think it's important to emphasise a point or two in this regard. As
I think the thing that should enjoy our central focus is the fact that the parties are talking at the highest level. That is very significant. You can see that there is a momentum that has been generated in this process. It was difficult to get the first meeting. But when it did
take place, you could actually see that there is this one image of all the leaders arriving for talks.
As South Africans we should celebrate the fact that the persistence of the President as facilitator, in spite of all the criticism and the negativity around it, has got the parties in
Our President has consistently said that as Facilitator he can only do so much, it is the parties to the conflict that will really resolve that issue. We are at that point now where the parties are talking. I would imagine that a matter such as this would be one of the matters that would be discussed because traditionally, when SADC Summits convene the Facilitator gives reports to the other Heads of State about progress on the
Question: Would it be right to say that the talks in
they going to be at the
Answer: Deputy Minister Pahad - There is reference group comprising of the United Nations, the AU and SADC. So through those channels everybody gets briefed about progress being made.
We have tried both of us to hint at this, that some report has to be given to
I don't think that we should try to determine whether there will be results or not. If they are successful outcomes, that would be a plus. If there is still more time needed for more consultations that shouldn't lead us to despair. It just means that they are still talking. The
fact that the parties are continuing to talk is a positive aspect. And we should stick to that as the Minister was hinting; try to encourage them to continue talking until they find a solution that is in the interest of the Zimbabwean people.
Question: Can Minister Mpahlwa explain how
Answer: Minister Mpahlwa - One of the things that will happen when the Free Trade Area is launched will be that information will be provided by the Secretariat on the state of affairs in so far as achieving a Free Trade Area. That report, because countries in terms of this trade protocol make commitments of a tariff phase-down. A country makes a tariff offer which says that this is the schedule of a phasing down of tariffs towards achieving substantially all trade within the
region being duty free.
And so, with respect to each of the countries a report will provide information about how each of the countries fares in terms of those offers that have been made and the schedule of tariff commitments.
One of the realities of this is that countries sit at different positions in relation to this tariff phase downs. Some countries front-loaded this -
I think that you would recall that over time in the African continent
the participation of
The exact information and figures and the exact stage
Question: Will SADC be putting any pressure on the Swazi monarch to hold democratic elections?
Answer: There are processes under way in
Question: Minister Alec Erwin has been referring all questions about the arms deal to the Department of Trade and Industry. I would just like to know, is the serious fraud office investigations into the DAE contracts with
Answer: Minister Mpahlwa - I don't know if that has anything to do with the SADC Summit and the launch of the Free Trade Area. The advice that I would give you is that perhaps we should consider an appropriate forum to talk about issues of the offset programme which the Department
of Trade and Industry has been managing.
The information about the work the Department of Trade and Industry is doing is available. There is a series of Annual Reports that have been tabled every year in parliament. If we need to engage on this we should consider the appropriate forum.
Question: Minister, just a practical one. In the absence of the Zambian president Mwanawasa, any news on who will act on his behalf in handing over the Chair and all the things at the
Answer: Deputy Minister Pahad -
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