Southern African Customs Union (SACU)

The EFTA States signed a Free Trade Agreement with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) in Höfn, Iceland, on 26 June 2006. The Agreement entered into force on 1 May 2008.


The Agreement covers trade in goods and lays the foundation for a further engagement of the Parties with regard to intellectual property, investment, trade in services and public procurement. A Joint Committee is established for the supervision and administration of the Agreement, and provisions are included providing for consultations and dispute settlement procedures.

In January 2018, EFTA and SACU launched a review process of the Agreement aiming for a general update and development of the FTA. 

Content of the Free Trade Agreement

The Agreement consists of 7 Chapters and 8 Annexes. The Agreement covers the following main subjects:

Trade in Goods

Industrial Goods, and Fish and Marine Products

Most industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, will benefit from duty-free access to the respective markets of the EFTA States as of the entry into force of the Agreement. For products imported into SACU, customs duties are to be eliminated after transitional periods of different duration or a joint review by the Parties depending on which products are at stake (Annex IV and Annex VII). This asymmetrical treatment reflects the variety in the economic development of the Parties. The Agreement also contains provisions on special treatment for Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini under certain circumstances.

The Agreement provides for liberal rules of origin and allows for the use of up to 60 per cent of non-originating input in the production of certain products (Annex V). It also contains provisions for mutual administrative assistance in customs matters.

Agricultural Products

The Agreement provides for concessions on processed agricultural products. Trade in processed agricultural products is covered in an Annex to the main Agreement (Annex III).

Trade in basic agricultural products is covered by arrangements concluded bilaterally between each EFTA State and SACU. These agreements, which form part of the instruments establishing the free trade area, are also asymmetrical, giving SACU improved preferential treatment into the EFTA markets, going beyond the existing preferential regimes in place. (Agricultural Agreement between Iceland and SACU, Agricultural Agreement between Norway and SACU, and Agricultural Agreement between Switzerland and SACU).

Trade in Services

In Article 27, the Parties confirm that they will endeavour to extend the scope of this Agreement with a view to further liberalising trade in services. 


The Parties share the goal of an attractive and stable environment for reciprocal investments. They recognise the importance of cross-border investment and technology flows as a means for economic growth and development and foresee co-operation in this respect in several ways. The Parties undertake to reassess investment issues in the Joint Committee (Article 28).

Protection of Intellectual Property (IPR)

Under the Agreement, the Parties grant and ensure adequate, effective and non-discriminatory protection of intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, industrial designs, undisclosed information, geographical indications) and ensure the enforcement of such rights against infringement (counterfeiting, piracy). These obligations are based on existing international agreements. The Parties undertake to review this Chapter aiming at a progressive harmonisation of the legal framework for IPR (Article 26).

Government Procurement

As far as government procurement is concerned, the Parties will exchange information and co-operate in order to enhance the understanding of their respective procurement markets. At the latest five years after the entry into force of the Agreement, the question of mutual liberalisation of the procurement markets of the Parties will be addressed (Article 29).


The Agreement contains provisions that allow for co-operation and exchange of information between Parties if a Party finds that anti-competitive practices in another Party affect the benefits of the Agreement. If such issues can not be solved between the Parties, they can be taken up for consultations in the Joint Committee (Article 15).

Institutional Provisions

A Joint Committee composed of representatives of the EFTA States and the SACU States will supervise and administer the application of the Agreement (Article 33-34).

Dispute Settlement

The Parties may hold consultations and, failing agreement, apply provisional measures. Any Party may refer a dispute over the interpretation of rights and obligations under the Agreement to binding arbitration if consultations do not lead to a solution (Article 35-37).

Economic Co-Operation and Technical Assistance

In line with the declared goal (as set out in the Preamble of the Agreement) to further economic and social development in the SACU States with the support of the EFTA States, the Agreement contains extensive provisions on economic co-operation and technical assistance. In the spirit of fostering economic cooperation, the EFTA States undertake to provide technical assistance to the SACU States in order to assist them in the implementation of the Agreement. The Parties will also co-ordinate efforts with relevant international organisations. The assistance provided will focus on exchange of information, transfer of expertise, and training with regard to trade policy, trade facilitation and trade promotion; customs and origin matters; technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment as well as sanitary and phytosanitary measures; local enterprise development; and regulatory assistance and implementation of laws in areas such as services, investment, intellectual property and public procurement (Article 30-32).

Bilateral Agreements on Agriculture

Agricultural Agreements

Joint Committee Decisions
Decision Subject Adopted Entry into force
No. 1/2011 Rules of Procedure 01.07.2011 01.07.2011



For EFTA-SACU trade statistics, see EFTA Trade Statistics Tool

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