SACU, UK to maintain trade ties even if Britain exits EU

Sharon Kavhu

Windhoek - Southern African Customs Union (SACU) member states remain keen on maintaining the existing trade relations with the United Kingdom (UK), The Southern Times, has learnt.

SACU’s trade relations with UK was sealed through the agreement between the European Union (EU) and Southern African states, called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) in June 2016.

While there is uncertainty whether the UK will leave the EU or stay, former chairperson of the SACU Council of Ministers and Lesotho Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, said the regional customs union will maintain its trade relations with the UK.

“One of our biggest tasks in our tenure of chairmanship was to negotiate and seal our trade deal with the UK. Since the UK has voted to exit the EU, and yet the existing trade relations between SACU and UK was cemented through EPA agreement, we have negotiated for a deal to maintain the trade relations between SACU and UK,” said Majoro in an interview during the side-lines of the SACU Council of Ministers’ chairmanship handover to Namibia.

“Our region trades with the UK on minerals and red meat and those are the primary things, and we want to maintain that relationship and expand it into the future even if the UK leaves the EU. Likewise, the UK has expressed some interests to maintain that relationship.”

Majoro said SACU has negotiated with the UK for an agreement that will see the two parties maintaining their trade relations and the agreement is expected to be finalised next month.

“We are nearly concluding the negotiations and I believe by next month we should be able to formalise the issues with a signed document. Of course, there are a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and we are still to watch what will happen before we sign our final deal, but the overall goal remains to maintain our trade relations with UK,” said Majoro.

He said the trade relations between SACU and the UK remains crucial as the capital that finances mining in SACU member states often comes out from the UK’s very sophisticated market.

SACU is regarded as the world’s oldest customs union which dates back to the 1889 Customs Union Convention between the British Colony of Cape of Good Hope and the Orange Free State Boer Republic. 

The organisation later on signed a new agreement in 1910 which was extended to the Union of South Africa and the British High Commission Territories (HCTs), namely Basutoland (Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Swaziland, South West Africa (Namibia) with the primary goal of promoting development through regional coordination of trade.

The regional organisation’s vision is to create an economic community with equitable and sustainable development, dedicated to the welfare of its people for a common future. It aims to be an engine for regional integration and development, industrial and economic diversification, the expansion of intra-regional trade and investment and global competitiveness.  

The five member states which constitutes SACU take turns to have the chairmanship for 12 months and passes on to another. Last week, Lesotho’s Minister of Finance handed over the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers to Namibian Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein. 

This means that Namibian President Hage Geingob becomes the Chairperson of SACU for the next 12 months.

 

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