The ratification process for the creation of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is almost complete. Given the weak administrative capacity of member states, it is likely that the ‘intended’ FTA will operate like a Customs Union with Common External Tariff based on the lowest tariff rates prevailing for each commodity amongst member states (CUmin).
But against these forces moving for regional integration in southern Africa there are powerful forces from the international community wanting unilateral freer trade and ultimately free trade. These circumstances provide a rich background for exploring the options for regional integration.
The paper concludes that a rapid move from an ‘intended but failed’ FTA to an explicit CUmin offers many advantages for SADC. Further, with the development of successful rule-based institutions under the CUmin option, the opportunities for dynamic long term gains from deep integration are likely to be considerable, without carrying some of the risks associated with free trade.