The meeting was held to review progress made with respect to the implementation of the Protocol on Trade and to take necessary decisions aimed at enhancing their trading relations as a region and also to continue to search for better ways of improving their trading environment.
Opening the meeting, the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry of Botswana, Honourable Vincent T. Seretse reminded his colleagues that in 2010, the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration agreed to consolidate the Free Trade Area to make it more effective for SADC and to provide a smooth transition in the integration agenda beyond the Free Trade Area. As a result, a fifteen point action matrix was agreed upon with priority to address completion of tariff phase down; addressing rules of origin such that they were flexible and less restrictive; removal of non-tariff barriers; and facilitating or developing a mechanism to help those Member States that were not yet in the Free Trade Area to join.
The Minister urged the participants to fully implement the fifteen (15) point agenda matrix and urged the SADC Secretariat to undertake regular checks on all implementation and to provide regular feedback on progress or lack thereof.
Minister Seretse emphasized on the need to conclude the trade in services negotiations in view of the region’s desire to industrialize. He reiterated that the Protocol on Trade in Services provided a better chance to inject the necessary impetus to entrepreneurship and industrialization.
On relations with the EU, he commended the SADC EPA Group of States for signing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. The meeting discussed the implementation of the SADC FTA and took decisions towards resolving some of the outstanding matters especially concerning tariff liberalization. The meeting also approved the first Annual Report (2015) under the recently implemented Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation System for the Protocol on Trade.
The Ministers reviewed progress in the ongoing negotiations for scheduling commitments under the Protocol on Trade in Services and took note of the outstanding issues delaying conclusion of the negotiations by the extended deadline of September 2016. The meeting agreed that Member States should improve their offers as already provided for in the Guidelines for the negotiations ahead of the next meeting of the Trade Negotiating Forum (Services) to be held in September 2016.