Implementation of landmark SACU-EFTA Free Trade Agreement
22 July 2008

This communiqué serves to confirm the operationalisation of the landmark Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, on 1 May 2008. The EFTA states are the only countries in Western Europe not party to the European Union.

The highly anticipated Agreement manages and facilitates trade in industrial products, fish and other marine products, and processed agricultural products. Trade in basic agricultural products is governed by bilateral agreements with each of the EFTA states, the latter of which are party to the FTA. Most industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, now benefit from duty-free access to the EFTA states. The importation of products into SACU will benefit greatly from the steady elimination of customs duties over a transitional period of time.

To benefit from these preferential rates, a certificate of origin form EUR.1, issued by Customs within EFTA or South Africa, or an invoice declaration issued by an approved exporter in one of member states, should accompany all consignments. It should be noted, however, that consignments destined for the EFTA, no longer need to be accompanied by certificates of origin form A.

Consignments accompanied by a EUR.1 certificate of origin issued by South African Revenue Service (SARS) from 1 January 2008, but cleared for customs purposes in one of the EFTA states before 1 May 2008, are therefore no longer eligible for preferential treatment in those markets.

Despite initial publication of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the Government Gazette of 28 December 2007 (No. 30615), and anticipated entry into force on 1 January 2008, the actualisation of the Agreement was confirmed on 1 May 2008.

This is due to technical shortcomings in the instruments of ratification of some parties, which resulted in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) being unable to implement the FTA on the expected deadline. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) subsequently withdrew the initial notice in the Government Gazette and replaced it with confirmation of the 1 May 2008 implementation date.

The South African government and the African sub-region as a whole, anticipates considerable growth in trade relations with its Western European (EFTA) counterparts, via the establishment of the Agreement.

For additional information or clarification, contact:
Emily Mphahlele
Tel: 012 394 3018/3046

Issued by: Department of Trade and Industry
22 July 2008