The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. It was established in 1910, making the oldest customs union in the world. The SACU agreement was revised in 1969 and in 2002.

As a customs union, the members implement one common external tariff with outside countries and charge no duties on trade between them.

SACU is increasingly involved in bilateral FTAs with foreign trade partners, mainly because it forms a single customs territority with South Africa as its powerhouse economy:

- In 2003, SACU started FTA talks with the US, but these were grounded by mid-2006 due to Washington’s high demands. In 2008, a Trade and Investment Development Cooperation Agreement was signed instead, as an interim measure towards a full and final FTA.
- In April 2005, SACU signed a preferential trade agreement with the southern Latin American bloc Mercosur, its first FTA. The agreement was revised, to incorporate further protocols, in April 2008.
- In 2006, SACU signed an FTA with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).

In 2010, the SACU Secretariat also commissioned a study into a potential SACU-East African Community (EAC) trade agreement. In 2011, SACU agreed to a set of principles to guide FTAs, and prioritized pursuing deals with Mercosur and India.

The ambitious project to forge an FTA between India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) may actually revolve around India, Mercosur and SACU.

last update: May 2012


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  • 11-Feb-2014 India-SACU free trade agreement needs ‘fine-tuning’
    The increasing amount of trade between Namibia and India is expected to balloon even further once the India-Southern African Customs Union Preferential Free Trade Agreement is finalised.
  • 28-Jan-2014 Trade Beat SACU: Dead man walking?
    Late last year, the African cyberspace was buzzing with rumours that the region’s oldest trade agreement, the Southern African Customs Union or SACU was about to be finally killed off by South Africa. From Windhoek to Cape Town to Mbabane, trade policy wonks were debating what the most recent moves from Pretoria regarding SACU really meant.
  • 17-Aug-2012 Chile affirms importance of trade agreement with Sacu
    Chile views the recently finalised memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the creation of a Joint Trade and Investment Commission with South Africa as the starting point for the negotiation of a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu).
  • 19-Nov-2011 Discussions Start On Industrial Policy
    The country’s draft policy on industrialisation is finally ready for public discussion after years of private sector grousing over its absence and the consequent devastating effects on Namibia’s overall market competitiveness.
  • 19-Nov-2011 Botswana stands to lose billions in SACU revenues
    The global economic crisis, along with other evolving structural factors within SACU, could cut a P5-billion permanent hole in revenues that Botswana receives from the customs union, the IMF estimates.
  • 3-Nov-2011 Sacu-Mercosur Pta Gets Cautionary Thumbs-Up
    The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Tjekero Tweya, tabled a motion in Parliament on Thursday for the ratification of a preferential trade agreement (PTA) between the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and South America’s trade bloc, called the Common Market of the South (Mercosur).
  • 27-Mar-2011 Bloomberg Southern Africa Customs Union agrees to jointly negotiate trade agreements
    The Southern African Customs Union has finally agreed on a set of principles to negotiate all future trade agreements, including deals with India and Mercosur, collectively
  • 7-Oct-2010 Business Day Experts called in to fix customs union split
    The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) has instructed a team of technical experts to draft terms of reference acceptable to all five member states, in order to resolve the contentious issue of an economic partnership agreement with the European Union, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.
  • 22-Sep-2010 IPS South Africa flexing its muscles with poor neighbours
    The beleaguered Southern African Customs Union (SACU) has to face up to serious challenges at its upcoming heads of state meeting in October.
  • 13-Sep-2010 SADC Churches discuss SACU
    A regional SACU civil society conference has recommended that there is a need for a broader regional agenda anchored on the strength of small economies in the region.
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