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GATS Negotiations Must Focus on Services Liberalization: The Case of SADC. By Kennedy K. Mbekeani*
Aug 4, 2003

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  • Comment Board
  • Construction.

    SADC countries view the construction services sector not only as a key infrastructure service but also as a tool for upgrading welfare. Development of this sector directly contributes to the attainment of the development goals. The strengthening of domestic and export supply capacity relies upon the ability of SADC countries to upgrade continuously their technological capacity.

    SADC countries may seek to attach the requirements of associations and joint ventures, so as to include local companies in the design and implementation of construction projects. This has proved to be the most effective way of obtaining access to transfer of technology.

    Construction is one sector that SADC countries can request for sector liberalization of movement of natural persons in exchange for market access. The movement of foreign nationals in developed countries is often subject to visa and residency requirements, and economic needs tests, even for project related work of short duration, and frequently with little transparency with regard to the criteria applied in the issuance of visas and work permits, which often appear to penalize nationals of developing countries.

    Conclusion

    Sustainable and effective integration of the SADC countries into the processes of liberalization of the world economy rests upon creating a supportive domestic and international policy and regulatory environments. Fair trade will not be achieved in the imperfect markets, where information will not be equally available to all, where dominant players will impose their own terms of doing business and where the rest will have no tools to address the anti-competitive practices. Among all these concerns, asymmetries in the level of development and the weak position of the SADC countries in the global services trade are the most essential problems to be addressed. As a minimum, the assessment should demonstrate conditions under which SADC countries could expect to achieve a balanced growth and the specific obligations, which they will be able to sustain.

    Domestic environment is predominantly open in SADC countries but suppliers of services are not benefiting from the same opportunities as in the developed country markets. Further liberalization along the traditional lines is not likely to bring the net benefits to developing countries and contribute to their balanced growth, unless issues such as movement of natural persons, technology transfer and capacity building are properly addressed in the negotiations.

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