Common Customs Union Elusive

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By Desie Heita

Windhoek

The practicality of establishing a common customs union for either the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or for the continent remains fuzzy. Nor does the SADC region appear to be set on having a customs union by 2010, as state members themselves have committed.

The European Union Ambassador to Namibia, Dr Elisabeth Pape briefly referred to this during the Europe Day celebration in Windhoek recently.

Pape was making a point that the European Union does support regional integration and does believe that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with SADC would strengthen regional integration, something that the African leaders are fighting for. The problems, however, are in the implementation process.

Further, the recently held Joint Parliament Assembly between the European Parliament and the SADC Parliament in Windhoek once again highlighted the complexities of regional integration.

It came to the fore, again, that overlapping memberships by member states bring headaches, such as those recently incurred in the negotiations of the EPAs.

“It [is] difficult, from an economic perspective, to establish customs unions in a region with overlapping memberships such as the SADC region, as such configuration would have the effect of undermining and complicating intra-region trade,” politicians said in a joint communiqu??????’??

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