Southern African Customs Union Agreement and Annexes: briefing

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Trade, Industry and Competition

11 November 2003
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TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 November 2003
SOUTHERN AFRICAN CUSTOMS UNION AGREEMENT AND ANNEXES: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT
 


Chairperson: Dr R H Davies

Documents handed out

Southern African Customs Union Agreement (SACU Agreement)
Explanatory Memorandum and Summary of the provisions of SACU Agreement
Draft Annex B (National Bodies),
Draft Annex C (Tariff Board),
Objectives of the New SACU Agreement
Purpose of the Tariff Board and the National Bodies Annexes

SUMMARY
The Department of Trade and Industry briefed the Committee on the Tariff Board and the National Bodies Annexes of the Southern African Customs Union Agreement which was signed in Gaborone on 21 October 2002. DTI urged the Committee to recommend its ratification.

It was noted by the Committee that NEDLAC appears to have crossed out some important provisions in Annex B. In reply to the question asking when the other annexes would be completed, it was noted that once the agreement had been ratified, the Department would be in a position to start work on these substantive issues.

MINUTES
Mr Xavier Carim, DTI Chief Director, Multilateral Trade Negotiations, said that the purpose of the presentation was to seek support from the Committee for the ratification of the SACU Agreement. The process had been delayed by the need for the development of Annexes that are to give clarity to the Agreement. However, he stressed that the annexes were not required in order to ratify the Agreement.

He pointed out that this Agreement was an enabling framework and was not prescriptive. At this point, it was not possible to foresee all the possibilities and as such, the annexes will be used to clarify issues that arise with time. It was also clear, after negotiating with other third parties that there were a number of silent areas that need attention.

Ratification would give the department the go-ahead to start working on these issues with greater intensity and to develop the annexes so as to allow for more effective implementation of the Agreement.

Mr Carim noted that discussions had already been held with various stakeholders including NEDLAC.

Mr Seth Mogapi (DTI Programme Manager: Trade Negotiations) took the Committee through the DTI presentation on the objectives of the SACU Agreement and the purpose of the Tariff Board and National Bodies Annexes. The overarching objective for the whole exercise was to deepen regional integration.

Discussion
The Chairperson expressed concern at the amendments made to Annex B. He pointed out that NEDLAC appears to have crossed out some important provisions.

Mr Carim replied that these were provisional provisions - a further investigation of issues still continues.

Mr Lockey (ANC) referred to the Explanatory Memorandum and asked what the costs of the Agreement would be for South Africa. He queried the reference to the costs not being substantial when no estimation had been given.

Ms September (ANC) wanted to know what programmes had been adopted to deal with capacitating the other countries so as to level the playing field amongst the countries for the effective implementation of the Agreement.

Mr Carim's response was that there is a plan set out in the SACU Agreement to address this matter. Further, other institutions such as International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC)

 

and the Competition Commission have been running training programmes in the sub-region. He pointed out that other issues will become clearer with the development and implementation of the Agreement.

The Chairperson cautioned against being driven by external forces and losing sight of the needs of the region. The focus must be on developmental integration with effective results instead of harmonizing practices with the rest of the international community.

Mr Carim agreed that one must not be driven by external forces but pointed out that it still does require that there be a common SACU approach, as a minimum requirement.

In closing the Chairperson stressed that the purpose of these deliberations was for ratification and not to amend the agreement. More issues will be raised at the upcoming public hearings.

Prof Ripinga (ANC) wanted to know when the other annexes would be completed especially the ones dealing with the more substantial issues that have significant impact on the implementation of the Agreement.

Mr Carim replied that once the agreement had been ratified, it would put them in a position to start work on these issues. He pointed out that Botswana and Swaziland had already ratified the Agreement.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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