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Landmark Euro-African Free Trade Agreement Implemented

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

24 July 2008


The South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a communique earlier this week to confirm the implementation of the landmark Free Trade Agreement between the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The highly anticipated Agreement, which is effective as of 1st May, 2008, manages and facilitates trade in industrial products, fish and other marine products, and processed agricultural products.

Trade in basic agricultural products is governed by bilateral agreements with each of the EFTA states, the latter of which are party to the FTA. Most industrial goods, including fish and other marine products now benefit from duty-free access to the EFTA states. It is expected that the importation of products into SACU will benefit greatly from the steady elimination of customs duties over a transitional period of time.

The membership of SACU comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. The EFTA member states include those Western European countries not currently part of the European Union, and include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland,

According to the DTI, for businesses to benefit from preferential rates, a certificate of origin form issued by Customs within EFTA or South Africa, or an invoice declaration issued by an approved exporter in one of member-states, should accompany all consignments. Under the agreement, consignments destined for the EFTA, no longer need to be accompanied by certificates of origin forms.

However, the DTI added that consignments accompanied by a certificate of origin issued by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) from 1st January 2008, but cleared for customs purposes in one of the EFTA states before 1st May 2008, are therefore no longer eligible for preferential treatment in those markets.

Despite initial publication of the FTA in the Government Gazette of 28th December 2007, and anticipated entry into force on 1st January 2008, the effective date of the agreement was delayed due to technical shortcomings in the instruments of ratification of some parties, which resulted in EFTA being unable to implement the FTA on the expected deadline. SARS subsequently withdrew the initial notice in the Government Gazette and replaced it with confirmation of the 1st May 2008 implementation date.

The South African government and the African sub-region as a whole, anticipates considerable growth in trade relations with its Western European (EFTA) counterparts, via the establishment of the Agreement.


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