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SACU tariff policies: Where should they go from here?

Edwards, Lawrence and Lawrence, Robert (2008): SACU tariff policies: Where should they go from here?

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Abstract

This paper characterizes the current SACU tariff structure, considers its rationale, proposes and evaluates some alternatives and offers some suggestions for reforming the SACU revenue sharing formula and regional trade strategy. While considerable progress was made until recently in liberalizing and simplifying SACU’s tariff structure, over the past few years such movement appears to have halted. This is unfortunate because, as the paper demonstrates, the tariff structure remains excessively complex, and opaque, continues to taxes exports and provides sectors with very disparate amounts of protection. The differentiation appears mainly to be the result of historical accident and does not appear to be justifiable as efficient job preservation, equitable income distribution or on infant industry grounds. Several alternative tariff structures that use just one or two tariff bands are explored. We demonstrate that it is possible simultaneously to provide benefits to consumers, limit employment dislocation, confer a reasonable degree of effective protection, particularly on finished goods, reduce export taxes, improve transparency and provide a norm against which industrial policy priorities can be set. A major reform of SACU tariffs would also provide the opportunity to renegotiate the SACU revenue-sharing formula, more clearly and rationally separating its aid and tariff-revenue sharing components. The paper also advocates that SACU place primary reliance on free trade agreements rather than new customs unions in its dealing with other trading partners.

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