01 March 2024

SACU Ministers Responsible For Trade Meeting - Opening Remarks By Hon. Daniel Neo Moroka, Ministers Of Trade And Industry

27 September 2007

Honourable Ministers,
Executive Secretary of SACU,
Senior Officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Maseru, Lesotho, this afternoon. I want to thank the host for enabling us to meet at such a convenient location and for the efforts put in to host us in this beautiful country.

This meeting has been scheduled as a follow up to the work emanating from our last meeting that took place in Gaborone on 31 August 2007. As you recall, we had a successful meeting where we were able to address a number of important issues currently on the SACU trade negotiating agenda. However, there were some issues that needed further work and my wish is that we can finalize these issues at this meeting and find a way to take them forward.

The issues we need to discuss are important indeed. Firstly, we need to develop common positions on the ongoing WTO Doha Development Round negotiations, specifically in the area of NAMA and agriculture. Both areas are of importance to the economies of SACU Member States. It is therefore important that we exercise our minds to ensure that the outcome of these negotiations will be to the benefit to not only all SACU Member States in specific, but also to developing countries in general. It is my wish that following our previous meetings, we can today reach consensus on the position we adopt at the WTO, taking into account of course, special circumstances of our individual member states.

Honourable Ministers, the second issue we need to discuss is the challenge we face in the SADC-EU EPA negotiations. We have only a few months remaining before the deadline of December, 2007 and there are many issues that we have not been able to resolve with the European Commission. The negotiations have reached a crucial stage where we need to take important political decisions. These include decisions on our approach towards the possibility that the negotiations might not be finished in time to meet the deadline of 31 December 2007. The European Commission has said repeatedly that if there is no agreement by that date, we will have to revert back to GSP preferences. This will be to the detriment of some of us, specifically for Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland who face significant economic losses as a result. This is a challenge that we need to address. However, we have to keep in mind that we are part of a larger configuration including countries outside the SACU region. As a result, whatever we do will have to take account of those countries’ needs and aspirations. We should ensure that the SADC EPA Group always presents a united front when dealing with the European Commission.

Finally, off course, we have to adopt the report of our meeting of Gaborone so that we can table it to the meeting of Council tomorrow.

With these few remarks, let me wish us fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.