By Emma Kakololo
Chairperson of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Council Baledzi Gaolathe is mindful of the need to effectively implement the 2002 SACU Agreement to address strategic challenges and work activities that confront the union.
“We should be mindful that the evolving agenda of SACU and the emerging regional challenges requires the full establishment of the SACU institutions that should respond proactively to the successful implementation of the 2002 SACU Agreement,” Gaolathe said at the opening of the 13th SACU Council meeting last week.
The 2002 SACU Agreement centres on areas such as institutional development, policy harmonization and trade facilitation.
The recent joint meeting of the SADC Ministers of Trade and Finance, said Gaolathe, confirmed the road map for the launch of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008 and a customs union in 2010, an integration agenda to which all SACU member states also subscribe.
“Whilst the integration agenda presents challenges to the basic aims of SACU, we need to stay focused and objective in interpreting it,” he urged.
“As much as possible we need to identify those elements of the agenda that will promote the aim of SACU and capitalize on them.”
Gaolathe noted that an important objective of SACU is to enhance integration into the global economy through trade, and to pursue this objective it has become obvious that the international agenda is becoming diverse with important issues such as trade in services, aid and development taking a more prominent role.
“This widening scope of trade negotiations compels us to adopt proactive and well informed strategies on issues that are not presently covered by our agreement. This has implications on the outcome of our trade negotiations with third parties.”
He added: “Going forward, we will have to spend more time developing common policies and harmonizing our interests. There will be a need for SACU to continue harmonizing existing trade relations with third parties and strive to uphold the principles and obligations of the SACU Agreement.”