Pretoria, South Africa- Deputy United States Trade Representative Karan
Bhatia met today with senior officials from the member countries of the Southern
African Customs Union (SACU) and said the United States remained committed to
concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement and, in the near term, to
strengthening the U.S.-SACU trade and investment partnership in concrete ways.
SACU consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland.
"Our discussions focused on the best way to move forward on the FTA and how
we can build upon and improve our trade partnership more broadly," said
Ambassador Bhatia. "To that end, the United States and SACU have agreed-subject
to approval by Ministers-to establish a framework through which the Parties will
remain vigorously engaged in growing and deepening our bilateral
"The United States and SACU will develop a joint work program to address a
broad range of FTA and other trade- and investment-related issues and,
potentially in the near-term, seek to conclude concrete trade and
investment-enhancing agreements," added Bhatia.
Ambassador Bhatia explained that the framework would establish a basis and
building blocks for pursuing the FTA over the longer term. He noted that the
proposed framework would require further consultations within the U.S.
government and with U.S. stakeholders, including the private sector.
The United States and SACU launched FTA negotiations in 2003 to secure a more
comprehensive and long-term U.S.-SACU trade relationship that would build on the
success of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, under which two-way trade
between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled.
The United States and SACU have had differences on some core issues in the
FTA. These issues will require detailed examinations over the longer term.