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Southern African Customs Union (SACU)

SACU OrbThe Southern African Customs Union (SACU), an African regional economic organization, is the world's oldest customs union, founded in 1910. Its members include Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. The five member states maintain a common external tariff, share customs revenues, and coordinate policies and decision-making on a wide range of trade issues.

On July 16, 2008, the United States and SACU signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA).

The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and trade and investment promotion.

The TIDCA is designed to build on and potentially capture some of the progress made in previous Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between the United States and SACU, which were suspended in 2006 due to divergent views on the scope and level of ambition for a FTA. Ideally, the TIDCA will help to put in place the "building blocks" for a future FTA, which remains a longer-term objective for both the United States and SACU.

U.S.-SACU Trade Facts

The United States has $17 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with SACU countries during 2013.  Goods exports totaled $7.6 billion; Imports totaled $9.4 billion.  The U.S. goods trade deficit with SACU countries was $1.8 billion in 2013.


U.S. goods exports to SACU in 2013 were $7.6 billion, down 3.0% ($236 million) from 2013.

The SACU Countries, together would rank 35th as an export market for the United States in 2013.

Roughly 96% of U.S. exports to SACU went to South Africa in 2013.  The U.S. export markets in SACU for 2013 were: South Africa ($7.3 billion) Namibia ($207 million), Botswana ($82 million), Swaziland ($23 million), and Lesotho ($644 thousand).

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2013 were: Machinery ($1.6 billion), Precious Stones (gold) ($1.1 billion), Vehicles ($1.1 billion), Electrical Machinery ($428 million), and Special Other (low value shipments) ($403 million).

U.S. exports of agricultural products to SACU totaled $311 million in 2013.  Leading categories are: wheat ($31 million), dairy products ($28 million), poultry meat ($26 million), and planting seed ($24 million).


U.S. goods imports from SACU totaled $9.4 billion in 2013, down 0.6% ($59 million) from 2012.

The SACU Countries, together, would rank 36th as the largest supplier of imports to the United States in 2013.

Roughly 90% of U.S. imports from SACU were from South Africa.  The U.S. import suppliers from SACU for 2013 were: South Africa ($8.5 billion), Lesotho ($359 million), Botswana ($283 million), Namibia ($263 million), and Swaziland ($59 million).

The five largest import categories in 2013 were: Precious Stones (platinum and diamonds) ($3.0 billion), Vehicles ($2.3 billion), Ores, Slag, Ash (slag, titanium, and uranium) ($716 million), Iron and Steel ($696 million), and Machinery ($405 million).

U.S. imports of agricultural products from SACU totaled $259 million in 2013.  Leading categories include: wine and beer ($69 million), fresh fruit ($59 million), tree nuts ($42 million), and processed fruit and vegetables ($24 million).

Balance of Merchandise Trade 

The U.S. goods trade deficit with SACU was $1.8 billion in 2013, up 10.7% ($178 million) from 2012. 


U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in SACU countries (stock) was $5.6 billion in 2012 (latest data available), down 4.9% from 2011. 

SACU countries’ FDI in the United States (stock) was $1.5 billion in 2012 (latest data available), up 55.4% from 2011.