A new Road to Regional Integration?
Shifts in mega debates often occur gradually and in small steps. The extent of the adjustment will only become clear over time. Things may, however, also move in directions not originally envisaged. In Southern Africa we are in the middle of such a process. It involves a new discourse about regional integration and South Africa’s role within that process. It is necessary to ponder what should be discussed and how.
South Africa has announced that it wants to change the SACU revenue sharing formula (adopted in 2002 when the new SACU agreement was signed) because of concerns that the BLNS states are being “subsidized” at the expense of the national fiscus. SADC is being redirected into areas of practical cooperation. When South Africa joined this organization after the first democratic elections of 1994 it was the time of high ambition. SADC had to be become, by political fiat, an FTA (by 2008), a customs union (by 2010) and a common market (by 2015). We now look back at those plans in amazement; they were over ambitious and unrealistic. They have been put on the back burner.
One of the lessons learned was about the restraining effect on national policy space of legal and institutional disciplines associated with the administration of a common external tariff and a single customs territory. This level of regional integration requires a serious commitment to respect the applicable law.
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