Opening Remarks by His Excellency Jacob Zuma at the Heads of State and Government Meeting of the Southern Africa Customs Union countries 25 March 2011

Your Majesty King Mswati III,
Your Excellency President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama,
Your Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba,
Your Excellency the Right Honourable Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili,
Chairperson of the SACU Council,
Honourable Ministers,
Executive Secretary of SACU,
Senior Officials,
Distinguished Delegates,

May I take this opportunity to welcome Your Excellencies, the SACU Heads of State and Government, and your delegations to the Third Summit of the SACU Heads of State and Government.

It is once again a great honour and privilege for me to preside over this meeting, which has to provide strategic direction to our Organisation.

The fact that you have made arrangements to attend this meeting is again testimony to the importance we all attach to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and its continued good standing as a leading regional formation.

Your Excellencies, during our Second Summit on 16 July 2010 in Pretoria, we reflected on the outcome of the Centenary and First Summit held in Windhoek on 22 April 2010 and expressed satisfaction with the successful launch of the commemoration of SACU's 100 years of existence.

In Windhoek we approved the new Vision for SACU to be 'an economic community with equitable and sustainable development dedicated to the welfare of its people for a common future'.

Your Excellencies, you will recall that at our Summit on 16 July 2010 in Pretoria, we considered SACU's considerable achievements and the internal and external challenges the organisation faces.

We agreed that current challenges and strategic opportunities require that we do things in a different way to the benefit of all SACU members.

We also agreed that SACU continues to play an important role in the economies of its Member States and that it should be transformed into a vehicle for regional integration capable of promoting equitable development and the new SACU Vision.  Consequently, as leaders, we agreed on the need to take bold decisions, requiring a collective commitment towards securing the long-term economic prosperity of our region that benefits our people.

For this to happen we need to prioritise economic diversification and the industrial development of our region.

That requires that we build productive capacity across SACU. We need to identify practical interventions that can deliver results, create employment and improve the welfare of the people of the region.

SACU should move beyond strategies towards programmes that meet these objectives.

As we build these strategies, we need to take into account the new sources of growth in the global economy. While traditional partners remain important, we must engage more proactively with emerging economies of the South.

We need to diversify the production base, while also diversifying the markets for our products.

At the same time, we need to recognise the enormous opportunities that can arise from widening integration in Africa.

Africa is widely considered to be the new trade and investment frontier in the global economy. In this context, the forthcoming Tripartite Summit between SADC, EAC and COMESA is to be welcomed and SACU must play a positive role in this engagement.

We are privileged as South Africa to host that Summit later this year.

It is of significance that we host this Summit immediately after the celebration of Human Rights Day in South Africa on 21 March 2011.

Economic development is a human right and it is our duty to ensure that we commit ourselves to implement programmes that will promote the socio-economic development of our countries.

The two Summits that have been held so far have assisted to enhance the unity of SACU and have provided a clear vision.

We need to build on these positive developments as we forge forward with the SACU agenda.

In July 2010 we established clear objectives for Member States and the SACU Secretariat to work towards and report back to us before the end of October 2010.

Indeed, towards the end of 2010 I received a report from the Chair of the Council of Ministers, together with the SACU Executive Secretary, informing me that work was progressing well.

Your Excellencies, our meeting today shall therefore focus on the progress report to be given by the Council of Ministers towards achieving the objectives identified in July 2010.

The Chair of the Council of Ministers informed me that in order to make the work more manageable, the Council of Ministers and the Executive Secretary have identified five priority objectives drawn from the list we developed on the 16th July 2010.

Your Excellencies, accordingly we shall today receive reports on the following areas:

a) Work towards developing a common regional industrialisation approach that will encourage regional economic development.

b) A report of the work on the review of the revenue-sharing formula. We want a formula that ensures a sustainable revenue-sharing mechanism that promotes fair and equitable development for all SACU Member States. 

c) In order to facilitate the easier and free movement of goods and services in the Union, we shall receive feedback on work on a trade facilitation programme which will improve border efficiency. 

d) We will also receive a report on progress to develop a unified engagement approach for trade negotiations. 

Principles of such an approach were developed by Ministers and we shall have to consider them and give guidance accordingly.

e) Lastly, in July 2010 we tasked our Ministers to develop a roadmap towards the establishment of the outstanding common institutions such as a Tariff Board and the Tribunal within an agreed policy framework. These institutions are important for our Union to reach efficiency and deliver on its objectives. Your Excellencies, we clearly have an extensive agenda to deal with today. Let us accord this work our full attention and provide the necessary guidance and direction on the way forward.

With these remarks, I would like to reiterate my profound gratitude for having you all at this venue and I am confident that we will have successful deliberations.

I thank you.

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