In an apparent about-turn, South African officials now say they are prepared to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the five-nation South African Customs Union (SACU) by the year’s end.
South Africa and Namibia have until now resisted attempts to conclude a deal between the EU and SACU, citing concerns about proposals on intellectual property as well as the impact of tariff cuts on the custom union’s fledgling manufacturing sector.
However, the remaining three members of SACU – Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland – signed separate interim EPAs with the EU last year.
South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said: “We can indeed conclude this EPA by the end of this year as long as they [EU] do not bring new issues on the table.”
The EU has been forced to renegotiate trade agreements with former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific after the World Trade Organization ruled existing preferential trade deals were illegal.