MASERU — The trade agreement between the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) will help member countries like Lesotho fight the current economic recession, the Minister of Trade and Industry Popane Lebesa has said.
Lebesa was speaking at a two day workshop held in Maseru last week to inform local businesses about the benefits of the trade agreement signed between the two trading blocs.
The seminar which was attended by manufacturers, prospective exporters and farmers focused on trade opportunities created by the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two trading blocs.
Experts from the EFTA countries were also present.
“This seminar has come at a very crucial time, when the economies of the world are hit by the global financial economic crisis. This is also a time when the countries are coming together to fight the effects of the global financial crisis and Lesotho is no exception” Lebesa said.
He said the private sector should take the opportunity and explore the markets created by the FTA.
“Producers, industrialists and farmers must take the opportunities brought by the rules of origin between the EFTA countries and SACU.”
EFTA secretariat Geir Ulle said: “We believe that businesses in Lesotho can benefit in the Free Trade Agreement.”
“Basotho must take an initiative and export into the EFTA countries. Many of your exporting competitors are not in agreement with the EFTA. This should provide a lot of opportunities for the exporters from Lesotho.”
Speaking at the same occasion Markus Stern of the Promotion Trade Services Switzerland said that Basotho must first research the market and the trends before they can export to the EFTA countries.
He said there is also great potential for development in eco-tourism, leather, textiles, handicrafts and many other products from which Lesotho can benefit.
Stern said although there was a huge demand for products in Switzerland potential exporters must first research before they venture into the market.
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Mojalefa Rasephei, a businessman who attended the seminar, said he was positive that the FTA agreement will help local businesses penetrate the international market.
“I am a leather turner and I believe this free trade agreement will give me an opportunity to export my products to the overseas market,” Rasephei said.
“The problem that I have now is lack of capital to increase my production in order to meet the demand from those markets.”
The FTA between SACU and the EFTA countries came into force in May this year.
It is a contractual agreement which allows for trade in goods between the members of SACU and the EFTA member states without tariff charges.
The FTA covers trade in goods such as agricultural products including fisheries and other marine products, textiles and processed agricultural products.
The agreement also allows for reciprocal trade between individual member countries.