Thursday, June 25, 2009

SOUTH Africa cannot ’punish’ SACU members for signing an EPA with EU

The Swazi Observer | 10 June, 2009 - By Teetee Zwane

SOUTH Africa has no right to enforce ’punishment’ on the other Southern African Customs Union (SACU) members for signing an interim economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), an economist says.

The economist, who preferred anonymity, said it was unfair of the neighbouring state to threaten to review customs revenue allocations and tighten border controls with Swaziland as well as Botswana and Lesotho, following these countries’ perceived ’breaking of ranks’ with SACU by signing an interim trade deal with the EU.

He said for one, in the SADC-EU EPA negotiating group which includes South Africa, that country was classified as a developed country, which then ’taints’ the group, so much so that the other countries could not effectively negotiate the EPAs as developing countries.

Balance

"The other countries had to strike a balance with their partner (SA) which is a developed country. This means some conditions and requirements do not apply for the group and it’s even worse when we talk of least developed countries like Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola as they cannot benefit, per se, at EPA level since they’re negotiating with a developed state."

Signed

The economist further pointed out that South Africa signed a Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) with the EU while the other SACU member states were trading under the Cotonou Agreement. He said this was also a bone of contention for the smaller states which had always felt that country was hogging everything and yet it has its own trade agreement with the EU.

The TDCA, signed in 1999, created a free-trade area (FTA) between South Africa and the EU over a 12-year period. In terms of the agreement, the EU and South Africa were to open their markets to each other at a different pace.

Development

For South Africa, in the case of trade and development cooperation, the TDCA takes precedence over the Cotonou Agreement.

The local economist said it must also be understood that the signatories of the countries that signed the agreement might have been pressured into doing so.