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European, African States To Review Free Trade Agreement

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

16 February 2018

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), and the South African Customs Union (SACU) have begun negotiations to review their existing free trade agreement.

The first round of these negotiations was held in Geneva, Switzerland, from January 31 to February 1, and concentrated on trade in goods, rules of origin and customs matters, trade and sustainable development, and trade facilitation.

The EFTA-SACU FTA was signed in Iceland on June 26, 2006. The agreement covers trade in goods and laid the foundation for further engagement regarding intellectual property, investment, trade in services and public procurement.

Under the FTA, most industrial goods, fish, and marine products have benefited from duty-free access to the EFTA market since the agreement entered into force. Tariffs on goods imported into SACU from EFTA were phased out over a transitional period, in recognition of the fact that SACU members were at different stages of economic development.

The oldest customs union in the world, SACU provides that goods traded between members Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland should be free from tariffs. The group applies a common external tariff and a common excise tariff.

According to EFTA, merchandise trade between the two blocs stands at approximately USD1.6bn. EFTA's main exports are pharmaceuticals, ships and vessels, machinery and mineral fuel, while imports include aluminum, vehicles, and nickel, as well as fruits, nuts, and meat.

Negotiators hope to resume the talks in spring.

TAGS: South Africa | tax | investment | marine | free trade agreement (FTA) | Iceland | Swaziland | tariffs | Lesotho | Liechtenstein | Norway | Botswana | Namibia | Switzerland | trade | services | Europe | Africa

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