Saturday, September 19, 2020

Botswana tenses its muscles against South Africa on trade issues

Botswana has taken out its cloves against South Africa’s bulling attitude in the ongoing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) trade negotiations.

The EPAs negotiations which are quota free and tariffs free are a set of trade negotiations which are aimed at fishing out the 78 member states of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries from poverty and under development.
According to the plan, the arrangement will be supported by capacity building plan that will ensure that the ACP countries will be able to compete internationally when the World Trade Organisation rule come into a full swing operation by 2016.

James Masisi, Botswana’s chief negotiator in the ongoing marathon negotiations, accused South Africa of being selfish and not interested in the development of the entire region.
“South Africa has an unfinished business with the EU when they were negotiating a Trade Development Corporation Agreement with them. And now, they want to use the Southern African Development Community (SADC), region to advance their course without paying regard to our demands,” he said.

South Africa under the TDCA agreement is already getting development assistance from the EU to the tune of 980 million Euros to try to develop capacity to compete with the most developed countries across the world.
The southern neighbour, which already gets over 1 percent of the world trade, wants to be given more favours than the middle income countries like Botswana and the list developed like Lesotho.
Part of the problem is that it does not want to work on programmes such as region integrationÔÇöthat will include a common tariff board, common industrial policy and competition policy to try to level the playing ground.

Since 1910, South Africa has been the only country out of the SACU region that determine the tariff structure of the region making goods imported out side the region more expensive for other countries. For instance, consumers used to pay 50 percent more for cars which were manufactured outside South Africa in a bid to protect the southern neighbour’s industries and jobs.

“South Africa does not want to play a fair game. If they are worried about goods that would be coming from the EU entering their market they could easily stop them. That is an administrative issue,” he said.

“We would like to lower tariffs but they are against that,” he added.
The world is faced with the WTO‘s demands of bringing down the tariffs in order to allow free trade in the coming years, but countries which are over reliant on tariffs are going to find it hard to survive after 2016.
Some of those countries include Swaziland and Lesotho, which are the least developed in the southern tip of the continent.

On capacity building, Masisi, who is about to retire after the signing of the EPAs which is scheduled for either January or February, next year said that Botswana needs to come up with a list of sectors which would like to protect and develop so that it can compete favourably in the new arrangement. Some of the issues that he mentioned include upping the country’s productivity capacity to meet its quotas.

“I have urged the private sector to up their capacity and we should look at what we can do to improve productivity,” Masisi said.

Regarding South Africa, he echoed the same sentiments that are being expressed by the leftist parties in Europe that said South Africa being a big economy within the region should not be playing the big brother game.
They are so selfish and you can not expect that after 42 years Batswana, being so educated, do not know anything.
“What they should understand is that it is in their interest for other economies to prosper so that they can keep on buying from them. Let’s talk about the tariffs from SACU what will happen to other countries when they dry up,” he said.

He supported the investment and services negotiation which are ongoing as one area where Botswana could do well given the frustration demonstrated by South Africa to kill manufacturing businesses in neighbouring countries.

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