WASHINGTON - The
proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the five
member countries of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) will be the main
focus of U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick's January 13 visit to
South Africa. Zoellick will meet in Pretoria with the Trade Ministers of
Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland to discuss a roadmap and
timetable for forthcoming FTA negotiations. Discussions will begin in February,
with U.S. and SACU officials meeting to plan the negotiating process and develop
an effective negotiating framework. Additionally, U.S. trade capacity funds will
assist SACU countries in identifying their technical negotiating needs.
"Today we are
opening a new era – we are embarking with these FTA negotiations on a path to
mutual economic growth and to increased prosperity for the people of southern
Africa," Zoellick said. "A U.S.-SACU FTA will expand U.S. access to the vital
and growing southern African market to the benefit of our farmers, workers,
businesses and families. And it will give new hope and economic opportunity to
the people of southern Africa by increasing trade, creating new jobs, boosting
economic growth and development, and promoting regional integration."
visit to South Africa, Ambassador Zoellick will proceed to Mauritius where he
will lead the U.S. delegation to the Second U.S./Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and
Economic Cooperation Forum from January 15-17. The annual "AGOA Forum" provides
an opportunity for top U.S. and sub-Saharan African trade officials to discuss
ways of expanding trade and investment relations under the provisions of the
African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Enacted in 2000, AGOA authorized a
new U.S. trade and investment policy toward Africa, including duty-free access
to the U.S. market for goods from eligible countries – including all five
members of SACU -- and expanded consultation on trade and economic
traveled to sub-Saharan Africa in February 2002, stopping in Kenya, South Africa
and Botswana on what was the first official visit to Africa by a sitting U.S.
Trade Agreement with SACU
In November 2002,
U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick notified Congress of the President's intent
to initiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with the five member countries of the
Southern African Customs Union (SACU): Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa,
and Swaziland. The proposed FTA is in keeping with AGOA, which encouraged the
pursuit of free trade agreements with sub-Saharan African countries.
This FTA is a key
part of the Bush Administration's broader trade liberalization efforts. Through
bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade initiatives, the Administration is
seeking to spark competitive liberalization of trade, target the needs of
developing countries, and support African efforts to move to the mainstream of
the global economy. These trade initiatives complement the efforts of African
leaders to boost economic growth and development through increased trade. The
SACU countries are strong economic reformers and leading AGOA beneficiaries.
They have seen the positive role that trade can play in promoting economic
growth and development and are now taking an important step toward deeper
commercial engagement with the United States.
An FTA with SACU
will benefit U.S. businesses, workers and consumers by providing preferential
access to our largest export market in sub-Saharan Africa. The United States
exports to SACU were worth more than $3.1 billion in 2001. An FTA will also help
to address longstanding regulatory barriers in the region and to level the
playing field in areas where U.S. exporters were disadvantaged by the European
Union's free trade agreement with South Africa. Building on the success of AGOA,
a U.S.-SACU FTA would give SACU member countries guaranteed market access to the
world's largest economy, encouraging greater long-term investment in their
economies. The FTA would also reinforce ongoing regional economic reforms and
lower the perceived risk of doing business in southern Africa.
building technical assistance will be a fundamental element of the bilateral
cooperation in support of the FTA. Through the U.S. Agency for International
Development, the United States has identified initial funding to help the SACU
countries prepare for and participate in the negotiations, implement
commitments, and take advantage of trade opportunities. This effort will build
on the longstanding U.S. commitment to trade capacity building in southern
Africa and across the developing world.
countries of SACU had access to almost $34 million in U.S. trade capacity
building assistance for sub-Saharan Africa in fiscal year 2002. More than $5.5
million was through specific bilateral trade-related technical assistance
initiatives, and SACU countries also benefitted from $28.2 million through
programs for the Southern African Development Community (SADC).