Sunday Times Business: 'Something fishy' about Investment Bill, says Sakoschek

There is something fishy about the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, which Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies sees as a “guideline for negotiating future international commitments”. This is according to Stefan Sakoschek, chairman of the EU Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa, who believes “the government has a hidden agenda”.

He said: “The sentiment is that there is something happening that we [the European Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa] are not aware of.”

According to Sakoschek, policy changes seem to be biased towards the Brics bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; these countries have raised no concerns about the bill.

He said that since it cost the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications hundreds of millions to dispose of dangerous and counterfeit goods in South Africa, “we urge trade and industry to implement pre-import verifications of certain goods”.

“This would ensure a fair and equitable market, as well as compliance of imports to South African standards, protect consumers, help industrialise the nation, increase customs duties collections, and be in accordance with World Trade Organisation, which South Africa is a member of.”

The Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, which is expected to ultimately replace bilateral investment treaties between South Africa and various countries, aims to create an all-encompassing investment framework for the country. 

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The European and American chambers are concerned that their investments maybe jeopardised under the new bill.

Sakoschek said the chamber was a long-term investor in South Africa.

Europe is the country‘s largest trading partner, with more than 2000 companies invested in the country – representing 77% of total foreign direct investment. These companies have created more than 300 000 direct jobs and about 150 000 indirect jobs. Total annual trade between South Africa is estimated to be R460-billion, according to the European Chamber of Commerce.

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Sakoschek said it was not blackmailing the government or threatening it, but because of the uncertainty “some investors have started divesting and reinvesting elsewhere on the continent”.