SADC pushes free trade, customs union

18 August 2010

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit ended in Windhoek, Namibia on Tuesday with a resolution to consolidate time-lines for a free trade area and speed up preparations for establishing a customs union.

In a communique issued at the end of the two-day summit, attended by 14 SADC heads of state, including South African President Jacob Zuma, the leaders said they remained committed to the establishment of a customs union, saying it would help deepen regional integration.

Customs union, common market

Regarding the planned free trade area (FTA), which will facilitate trade via one-stop border posts, the summit adopted a comprehensive work programme with concrete actions and time-lines.

The launch of the FTA, seen as an initial step towards trade integration, will move the southern African region incrementally towards establishing a customs union – originally scheduled for 2010 – a common market by 2015, and a monetary union by 2016.

A regional central bank and a common currency are expected by 2018.

However, to date, only 11 out of 15 SADC member states have joined the protocol for the creation of the FTA.

During the summit, a high-level expert group was appointed to look at how the customs union can be speeded up. The team is expected to report back to the SADC by December 2011.

“The main mandate of this group will be to consolidate and refine technical work so far done in order to reach agreement and common understanding of parameters, benchmarks, timelines, a model customs union and its implementation modalities,” reads the communique.

Overlapping memberships

Country membership overlaps exist among the SADC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC), which presents technical challenges, as a country cannot belong to more than one customs union.

Regarding other challenges, the leaders noted the adverse socio-economic effects of the global economic crisis on the region. As a result, they resolved to hold an extra-ordinary summit on economic development.

Source: BuaNews