First EFTA Free Trade Agreement in sub-Saharan Africa

Published 01-07-2006
Federal Councillor Joseph Deiss, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs of Switzerland, Chairman of the EFTA Council at Ministerial Level, the South African Minister of Trade and Industry, H.E. Mandisi Bongani Mabuto Mpahlwa, and the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Swaziland, H.E. Clifford Sibusiso Mamba, today signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Member States of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU, comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland).

This FTA is a novelty in several respects: it is the first FTA that the EFTA States conclude with another trading bloc, and the first with partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also the first time that a least-developed country (Lesotho) becomes an EFTA free trade partner.

The free trade negotiations were launched in May 2003 and finalised in Pretoria in August 2005, after seven rounds of negotiations. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway inked the Agreement at the EFTA Ministerial Meeting in Höfn (Iceland) on 26 June 2006. Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia will sign it in the next few weeks.

The FTA takes account of the Parties’ diverse level of development and includes provisions allowing for special treatment of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland in some respects and setting out the main principles of economic co-operation and technical assistance. The Agreement covers trade in industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, and processed agricultural products. With regard to trade in basic agricultural products, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have individually signed bilateral agreements with the SACU States. H.E. Lulama Xingwana, Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs of South Africa, and Permanent Secretary Mamba signed these agreements for South Africa and Swaziland respectively on the occasion of the signing of the EFTA-SACU FTA today. The bilateral agreements on agriculture will enter into force at the same time as the FTA. The dismantling of tariffs is generally asymmetrical in that the EFTA States liberalise trade in goods in all fields more rapidly than the SACU States.

The Minister for Economic Affairs of Switzerland, Federal Councillor Joseph Deiss; The South African Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, H.E. Ms. Lulama Xingwana; The South African Minister of Trade and Industry, H.E. Mr. Mandisi Bongani Mabuto Mpahlwa; The Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Swaziland H.E. Mr. Clifford Sibusiso Mamba.

Moreover, the Parties endeavour to create and maintain a stable and transparent investment framework, and they have laid the foundation for further liberalisation of trade in services and public procurement. The protection of intellectual property is based on existing international agreements and will be reviewed within five years. The Agreement is complemented by rules as to how to address anti-competitive practices, a lean institutional structure as well as consultation and dispute settlement procedures.

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