SACU calls for dialogue negotiation in Ukraine conflict

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) says the Russia-Ukraine conflict can further affect the region if not resolved peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.

Reflecting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the 7th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of SACU said the conflict will result in “inflation surges, especially on food and fuel prices… dimming the growth prospects of the already fragile economies”. 

The summit was held on Thursday in Gaborone, Republic of Botswana. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa was in attendance, accompanied by Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel and Deputy Minister of Finance, David Masondo and the South African Revenue Service Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter.

“In light of these global developments and the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions in the region and globally, the summit undertook to remain resolute to implementing recovery programmes that assist in rebuilding economic resilience, and building on work already being done on analysing the impact of COVID-19 to bring SACU economies back on a sustainable economic growth trajectory.

“This includes prioritising investments in edible oils and other agricultural value chain development as a matter of urgency,” Executive Secretary of SACU, Paulina Elago, said while delivering the joint communique.

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In relation to the 12th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12), the summit noted that important deals critical to the region were concluded.

These include:

  • an agreement that enables the production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines without the patent holders’ authorisation;
  • the discipline on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing that will protect the territorial waters of the SACU countries;
  • food security measures to mitigate against the increase in food prices and food shortages;
  • the E-commerce Work Programme aimed at setting a deadline for the moratorium on customs duties to secure support for digital industrialisation for SACU and other African countries; and
  • the WTO reforms that provide an opportunity to put forward additional policy space to promote African industrialisation.

 

“The summit applauded the African Ministers for the decisive role they played to ensure that the WTO reaches a historical deal, in particular, on the TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] waiver that would enable Africa to manufacture its own vaccines,” Elago said.

Elago said the Summit agreed that SACU should maximise the opportunity being presented by the emerging global developments and accelerate the implementation of the SACU industrialisation programme, which will result in increased productive capacity to reduce the reliance on imports especially on food and fertilisers.

The summit further agreed on the need to build greater internal reliance in industrial development and public financing to support growth.

The summit noted the SACU vision on industrialisation, which seeks “to build a diversified, competitive, sustainable and equitable industrial base that supports structural transformation and the economic integration of the SACU region”.

Work Programmme

The summit endorsed the Work Programme and Priorities as follows:

  • Industrialisation through the development of regional value chains, investment attraction and export promotion;
  • Regional Financing Mechanism;
  • Trade Facilitation and Logistics, and the
  • Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
     

The summit has considered a Progress Report from the Council of Ministers on the implementation of the SACU Work Programme, which the Council of Ministers adopted at their 4th Ministerial Retreat held on 21 September 2020.

Furthermore, the summit endorsed priority sectors such as agro-processing, specifically leather and leather products; meat and meat products; fruits and vegetables; textiles and clothing; pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and essential oils, automotives and mineral beneficiation.

“The summit further directed the Council to prioritise fertilisers, agro-chemicals and seed production as part of the ongoing work on agro-processing to deal with the existential challenges the region is faced with regard to food security,” Elago said.

The summit reaffirmed SACU’s commitment to the AfCFTA and the importance of concluding SACU’s tariff offer to the AfCFTA.

“The summit further emphasised the imperative of advancing industrialisation in SACU and to fast-track work on the development of regional value chains to take advantage of the African market beyond. This requires a systematic approach and practical steps to deepen the region’s industrial base,” Elago said.

The summit noted that the Kingdom of Eswatini will assume the chair of SACU, effective from 15 July 2022 to 14 July 2023, taking over from the Republic of Botswana.

“The summit commended His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, for the able leadership and guidance rendered during his term as the chair of SACU.

“In the same vein, the summit congratulated His Majesty King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, on assuming the chair of SACU from 15 July 2022,” Elago said.

The summit further noted that the term of office for the Executive Secretary of SACU, Paulina M Elago, will end in October 2022.

The Heads of State and Government applauded Elago for her leadership and achievements while at the helm of the Secretariat since April 2014, and wished her success in her future endeavours. – SAnews.gov.za

 

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