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Home » News » Business » UK, SACU discuss new deal

UK, SACU discuss new deal

Publishing Date : 24 July, 2017

Author : AUBREY LUTE

The United Kingdom (UK) and members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) have agreed to continue discussions to explore ways to ensure that the existing trade arrangement between the UK and SACU currently governed by the EU-SADC EPA will not be disrupted by the UK’s departure from the EU.


This effectively means almost all the terms and conditions of SACU’s current trade agreement with the EU – known as the SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – would be adopted into a new trade arrangement with the UK.
According to a statement signed by Botswana’s Minister of Trade Industry and Investment, Vincent Seretse and Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, United Kingdom, The Lord Price CVO, talks are likely to focus on steps to agree an arrangement that replicates the effects of the EPA once the UK 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,” reads the statement. Ministers responsible for Trade Policy in the United Kingdom (UK), the Lord Price; Botswana, V T Seretse; Namibia, I Ngatjizeko; South Africa, Dr. R Davies; Swaziland, J C Mabuza; Lesotho Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry, Mr F Notoane, representing the Minister of Trade; and the High Commissioner of Mozambique to South Africa, Mr P Macaringue met in Johannesburg on Wednesday 19 July 2017, to discuss the trade relationship between the UK and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, post Brexit.


The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the SADC EPA countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland) and the European Union (EU) was signed on 10 June 2016 in Kasane, Botswana. The EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-SADC EPA) provisionally entered into force between the SACU countries and the EU on 10 October 2016. While the UK remains a member of the EU, the EU-SADC EPA will continue to apply to trade between the SADC EPA countries and the UK.


“The UK is in the process of exiting the EU. The SACU Ministers welcomed the UK’s intention to avoid disruption for its trading partners as it withdraws from the EU. The UK re-affirmed its commitment to the trade arrangement under the current EU-SADC EPA and to maintain current market access to the UK following its withdrawal from the EU, and to ensure continuity of the effects of the EU-SADC EPA,” reads Seretse and the Lord Mark Price.


The Brexit discussions officially began this week, amid scepticism by many Britons and others that the UK will in fact leave the EU. After last year’s referendum in favour of leaving, many Britons are believed to have had second thoughts, largely because of the negative impact the prospect of Brexit has already had on the country’s economy.


UK trade minister Mark Price today dismissed the possibility of a reverse on Brexit, noting that in the recent general election, 85% of Britons had voted for parties which supported a divorce from the EU. He added that many people thought Britain’s decision to leave the EU was a sign of an inward-looking and protectionist attitude. The truth was exactly the opposite, he insisted. “We want to use the opportunity of leaving the EU to become Global Britain,” he said. The UK would trade even more with the world, to help lift people from poverty. Once the UK had dealt with the business of leaving the EU, it would seek to negotiate even better trade deals with all its partners, including SACU and SADC.

Implications of Brexit

Gerhard Erasmus writing on ‘Some Implications of Brexit for Southern African Trade Relations’ in the Tralac Trade Brief notes that exit from the EU means that most aspects of secure international agreements, including the multilateral systems of the World Trade Organization (WTO), will now have to be renegotiated.

“Apart from the huge demands on national technical capacity (which is said to be lacking), most of these negotiations will involve unknown territory and will take a long time to complete. There has never been an exit from the EU before. The uncertainty will linger and cause considerable damage to domestic and international markets and commerce.”


Erasmus further states that an exit from the European Union would also have dire consequences for development assistance. In a recent article, Kevin Watkins, a Brookings nonresident senior fellow and executive director of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)—an international development think tank based in London— highlights the consequences of the Brexit on development assistance.


He notes that the U.K. is one of the biggest contributors to the European Development Fund, the EU’s development assistance arm, which provides funds to developing countries and regions.  The U.K. currently contributes £409 million—$585 million— making up 14.8 percent of contributions to the fund (Figure 1). The fund is one of the world’s largest providers of multilateral concessional aid, with disbursements exceeding ones channeled through the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

Speaking at an investment symposium on the future of Botswana exports to EU markets post Brexit and implications for trade relations earlier this year, the EU head of delegation to Botswana and SADC, Mr Alexander Baum observed that Botswana’s priority area should be to increase investments in Botswana in non-mining production. Baum noted that the economic implications of the Brexit, for the UK, EU and all third countries were difficult to assess as long as details of the exit agreement were unknown.


According to the EU Head of Delegation, the EU without the UK would contain 445 million consumers and a GDP of 16.6 trillion USD, which still made it the second largest economy after the US. Even without the UK, EU imports US$ 6.7 trillion in goods and services, which made it the largest export market for a larger number of countries. Baum had said the trade statistic for Botswana and the EU was by itself not easy to read.


"Notably many products that come to Botswana through South Africa are not recorded as trade between the EU and Botswana. The current trade flows and notably the exports are also not diversified. Botswana imports from Europe mainly semi-manufactured and manufactured goods, transport equipment and machinery including electrical machinery and chemicals including pharmaceuticals.


Botswana exports essentially diamonds, other mining products and beef. Beef represents by itself only 1.7 per cent of Botswana's exports in 2015 according to Bank of Botswana data and is exported to Europe mainly via the UK and Norway," he concluded. The same case applies for the UK, as Botswana exports mainly diamonds and beef.

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