Court rules in favour of ITAC on sugar

20 Nov 2013

On 15 November 2013, the North Gauteng High Court delivered a judgment in the matter between the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) and the Association of South African Sugar Importers (ASASI).

ASASI instituted an application against the Minister of Trade and Industry, ITAC and the South African Sugar Association (SASA) on 1 November 2013, seeking an interim interdict on an urgent basis to prohibit ITAC from proceeding with the tariff investigation pertaining to customs duties payable on sugar imports.

This follows an application by SASA to ITAC during April this year, who applied on behalf of its members, for an increase in the Dollar-based reference price of sugar from the existing 8/ton to 4.34/ton.

The Commission, after several deliberations, accepted the application as duly completed, and on 20 September 2013, initiated the investigation through the Government Gazette Notice No. 36849, allowing for comments for a four-week period, which ended on 18 October.

ASASI brought a review application in order to set aside the decision by ITAC to initiate the investigation. ASASI then requested ITAC to halt the on-going investigation until a review application was finalised.

ASASI, based on ITAC’s failure to stop the investigation, brought an application to interdict ITAC from continuing with the investigation on an urgent basis.

According to ASASI, the decision to initiate that led to the publication notice, was an administrative action worth of review, and ITAC’s failure in properly verifying the data before the initiation of the investigation was the reason for the action. The applicant further maintained that failure by ITAC to give an undertaking to halt the investigation pending the review, gave rise to the urgency claimed by ASASI.

ITAC opposed the application on various grounds, including, that the application lacked grounds for contending urgency as required by the court.

The urgent application was heard on 13 November 2013. Having heard all the arguments, the court reserved judgment to be handed down on the urgency point on Friday, 15 November 2013.

The court was of the view that the lack of urgency in ASASI’s founding papers was a fatal defect to their case.

The court struck the application off the roll for lack of urgency, and ordered ASASI to pay the costs of the application (including costs of two counsel).

The Commission is considering making a final determination on the tariff regime for sugar at its meeting of 10 December 2013. On the same day the Commission expects to hear oral presentations by the following interested parties:

• Sugar on Tap (Pty) Ltd
• The Beverage Association of South Africa (BVSA)
• Tiger Brands Limited
• XA International Trade Advisors on behalf of Snackworks (Pty) Ltd
• The South African Chocolate and Sweets Manufactures Association (SACSMA), and
• Webber Wentzel on behalf of SASA.

For further enquiries, please contact:

Mr Siyabulela Tsengiwe
Chief Commissioner
International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa
Tel: 012 394 3712
Cell: 082 454 8979