UK com­mits to SACU trade deal

Lesotho Times - - Business - Her­bert Moyo

LE­SOTHO and other mem­bers of the South­ern African Cus­toms Union (SACU) have wel­comed a com­mit­ment by the United King­dom to avoid trade dis­rup­tions ahead of its with­drawal from the Euro­pean Union (EU).

SACU whose other mem­ber coun­tries are Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are among South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) states that have a trad­ing ar­range­ment with the EU mem­ber states in­clud­ing the UK.

The UK voted in a June 2016 ref­er­en­dum to pull out of the 28 mem­ber EU bloc in what was dubbed the Brexit vote.

The Brexit move im­me­di­ately sparked un­cer­tainty over the fate of sev­eral multi-lat­eral agree­ments that the UK had com­mit­ted to as part of the EU, in­clud­ing the EU-SADC Eco- nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA).

The EPA deal lib­er­alises trade be­tween five African na­tions in­clud­ing Le­sotho and the EU, su­per­sed­ing the non-re­cip­ro­cal 16-yearold Cotonou Agree­ment, which is set to ex­pire in 2020.

In terms of the EPA agree­ment, Namibia, Botswana, Swazi­land and Le­sotho ben­e­fit from duty-free ac­cess to the lu­cra­tive Euro­pean mar­ket, but South Africa, with its more ad­vanced econ­omy, will still have to pay tar­iffs on some prod­ucts it chooses to sell.

In re­turn, the African coun­tries are ex­pected to open up their mar­kets to Euro­pean ex­ports by scrap­ping tar­iffs on 86 per­cent of prod­ucts orig­i­nat­ing in the EU.

How­ever, the UK al­layed fears about pos­si­ble neg­a­tive con­se­quences that Brexit would have on EPA in a re­cent meet­ing with SACU Trade Min­is­ters in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Af- rica.

“SACU Min­is­ters have wel­comed the UK’S in­ten­tion to avoid dis­rup­tion for its trad­ing part­ners as it with­draws from the EU, SACU Trade Min­is­ters said in a joint state­ment is­sued af­ter the meet­ing.

“The United King­dom reaf­firmed its com­mit­ment to the trade ar­range­ment un­der the cur­rent EU- SADC Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA), to main­tain cur­rent mar­ket ac­cess to the United King­dom fol­low­ing its with­drawal from the EU, [as well as] to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity of the ef­fects of the EUSADC EPA,” the SACU Trade Min­is­ters fur­ther stated.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, Le­sotho was rep­re­sented at the meet­ing by Fusi No­toane who stood in for Trade Min­is­ter, Tefo Mape­sela. Other coun­tries were rep­re­sented at the meet­ing by Vin­cent Seretse (Botswana), Im­manuel Ngatjizeko (Namibia), Rob Davies (South Africa) and J Mabuza (Swazi­land).

The UK was rep­re­sented by Mark Price, its Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Trade Pol­icy. Mozam­bique which is also a mem­ber of EPA was rep­re­sented by its High Com­mis­sioner to South Africa, Paulino Macaringue. The two sides agreed to con­tinue dis­cus­sions to ex­plore ways to en­sure that EPA will not be dis­rupted by the UK’S de­par­ture from the EU.

“Talks are likely to fo­cus on steps to agree an ar­range­ment that repli­cates the ef­fects of the EPA once the United King­dom has left the EU. This would be a tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity in the trad­ing re­la­tion­ship, rather than an op­por­tu­nity to rene­go­ti­ate ex­ist­ing terms,” the SACU Min­is­ters said.

The SACU min­is­ters also agreed to con­tinue dis­cus­sions on how best to work with Mozam­bique, given its par­tic­i­pa­tion in EPA.

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