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Council of Ministers finalise tripartite launching instruments

By Standard Reporter | June 9th 2015
By Standard Reporter | June 9th 2015

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Council of Ministers has finalized the preparation of the instruments to launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area on Wednesday June 10.

These include the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement which will be signed by the Heads of State and Government and the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration launching the Tripartite FTA. 

The others are Post Signature Implementation Roadmap, the Indicative Schedule of Negotiations on Outstanding Issues in Phase I and Phase II negotiations, and the Programme of Work on Movement of Business Persons and the Industrial Development Pillar. 

The Chairman of the Tripartite Task Force Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, who is also the Secretary General of COMESA, presented the draft documents to the Ministers during their meeting on Tuesday at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

The Ministers and their representatives from the 26 countries in the three economic communities also finalised the programme that will guide the Tripartite Heads of State and Government in launching the grand Free Trade Area on Wednesday.

The Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour described the launch of the tripartite as a giant step in the integration agenda that will enable the achievement of the African dream of a continental Free Trade Area.

“By creating the TFTA we aim at enlarging the markets for the benefits of economies of scale, to use efficiently the natural resources, to profit from complementary and strengthen our bargaining powers”, the minister said.

In his opening of the meeting address, Mr Abdel Nour noted that the tripartite arrangement still had a long way before the agreement gets into force and there was therefore need to finalise negotiations on the exchange on tariff offers, rules of origin, trade remedies, and complete the ratification procedures.

He said that in order for the continent to reach this milestone and take full advantage of integration, there was need to overcome some of the acute deficiencies in physical infrastructure like energy and transportation and raise the level of manpower skills and human resource capacities.

“We need to be realistic as we shall face challenges but the rewards outweigh the challenges we are yet to face before we enjoy the benefits of integration,” he noted. “We therefore need to move fast so that the people of Africa can see the benefits of integration because Africa is waking up and the lion is going to roar.”

The Heads of State and Government arrive at Sharm El Sheikh from Tuesday for the launching of the TFTA on Wednesday. States that will sign the Tripartite Agreement will therefore initiate the legislative process of ratification while those that do not sign will be given a specific timeframe to do so. The agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by two thirds of the 26 States.

The decision to conduct the forthcoming launch of the Tripartite FTA was made after the majority of the Tripartite Member/Partner States made ambitious tariff offers and agreed on Rules of Origin to be applied in the interim whilst further work continued on product specific Rules of Origin. This was during the Tripartite Sectoral Committee of Ministers meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi in October 2014.

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