A possible free trade agreement between the United States and SACU is of interest to Congress, as: (1) Congress must consider ratifying an agreement signed by the parties; (2) whereas the provisions of a free trade agreement may harm U.S. activities in industries competing with imports and employment in these sectors; and (3) a free trade agreement can increase AGOA`s effectiveness and strengthen its implementation. On January 9, 2003, a bipartisan group of 41 representatives wrote to Ambassador Zoellick in support of the start of free trade negotiations with SACU. Negotiations for a free trade agreement between the United States and the five members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) began on 3 June 2003. In April 2006, negotiators suspended the Free Trade Agreement negotiations and launched a new work programme to strengthen trade and investment relations with a free trade agreement as a long-term goal. A possible free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs over time, reduce or eliminate non-tariff barriers, liberalize trade in services, protect intellectual property rights and provide technical assistance to help SACU countries achieve the objectives of the agreement. This potential agreement would be subject to congressional approval. This report will be updated during the negotiations. Lesotho is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, which is being negotiated to create free trade agreements between the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific region (ACP) and the EU. These new agreements, known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), are essential for reciprocal free trade agreements and are compatible with wto multilateral trade rules.
The U.S. business community has also expressed interest in a free trade agreement between the United States. The U.S. The S.-South African Business Council, a member of the National Foreign Trade Council, announced in December 2002 the creation of an FREI trade coalition. The Corporate Council on Africa, an American organization dedicated to strengthening trade and investment relations with Africa, is also supporting the negotiations. For these business groups, one of the main advantages of a free trade agreement with SACU would be to counter the free trade agreement between the European Union and South Africa, which has given European companies a price advantage. The free trade agreement could also be an opportunity to address restrictions on U.S. exports to SACU countries, such as relatively high tariffs, import restrictions, inadequate copyright protection and barriers to the service sector.1 Some U.S. companies have reportedly expressed skepticism about a free trade agreement with SACU and have expressed concerns about corruption and inadequate transparency in public procurement. , particularly in South Africa2. On 4 June 2009, Swaziland and Botswana signed an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. The agreement will allow CDAA countries access to EU markets, while the parties negotiate a permanent EPA.
The revised EPA rules of origin improve the conditions under which Lesotho can trade large exports to Europe, such as textiles. Lesotho producers also benefit from the sale of tariff and quota products to the United States of America under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a U.S. initiative that has created preferential trade conditions for a number of African-made products for the U.S. market. The review of WTO`s trade policy9 by SACU member states in 2003 examined the structure and trade position of the customs union. It found that the South African tariff structure, which remained the basis of the SACU tariff, was relatively complex and consisted of specific tariffs, values, mixtures and formulas. However, the South African government has begun a process of streamlining tariffs in order to simplify the customs plan, convert tariff lines into value rates