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Thursday 23 September 2021
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SADCâ’s Free Trade Area slow to pick up

 Countries of the Southern Africa Development Communit y (SADC) are dodging the implementation of some frameworks of the Free Trade Are a (FTA), a grand intra-regional trade liberalisation programme which, despite its

far reaching broad ambitions, is progressing at a snailâ?s pace.

Trade experts concur that the FTA, which was officially launched in 2009, is slo wly and painfully limping forward.

SADC, a 14-member regional bloc, plans to liberalise trade and make flow of good s and services, which are being hampered by non-tariff barriers, easier and more


Trade liberalisation ushers in scrapping of taxes that will cut revenue for some SADC members, whose smaller economies largely rely on revenue collection.

Governments have however devised a means to re-coup these losses by imposing oth er non tariff barriers, which fly in the face of the broader ambitions of the FT A .

South Africa-based trade analyst Trudi Hartzenberg has warned of the slow implem entation of the FTA and urged SADC members to uphold the same commitment to libe r alising intra-regional trade they show on signing protocols which give birth to t he programmes.

Hartzenberg, executive director of Trade Law Centre for Southern African (Tralac ), said that much still needed to be done to fully implement the FTA.

The FTA is the second phase of a comprehensive regional integration plan which a ims to set up the region as a customs union by 2010, a common market by 2015 and

achieve monetary union by 2016.

Hartzenberg argued that greater trade facilitation within the region and scrappi ng of non tariff obstacles should be prioritised or the agenda would remain a pi p e dream.

â?There is a lot of work that needs to be done to facilitate trade. Complete im plementation has not been reached yet,â? Hartzenberg told a Namibian based weekl y, The Southern Times.

Under the FTA arrangement, 85 percent of goods in intra-regional trade is expect ed to cross borders duty free. While complete tariff liberalisation was expected

to be achieved by 2012, Hartzenberg believes that structural problems are weighing heavily against the i mplementation of the FTA.

Intra regional trade still accounts for slightly above 22 percent of the regionâ ?s total trade and the low level is largely blamed on non tariff barriers.

Other factors affecting the implementation of the FTA include lack of proper tra nsport infrastructure and inadequate energy supply sources.

Research has shown that it takes on average 91 days to comply with all trading r equirements for intra-regional SADC trade, compared with 53 to 60 days for trade

between SADC and other markets outside the regional ambit.


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