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African Tripartite FTA Launched

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

15 June 2015

On June 10 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the leaders of the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and the East African Community agreed to present the proposed tripartite free trade area (TFTA) for signature by their 26 member countries.

Following four years of negotiations, the completion of tariff negotiations for the TFTA, to establish a regional market with a total population of 632m people and a total gross domestic product of USD1.3 trillion (58 percent of Africa's total economy), will enable free market access for exporters of domestically produced goods.

The Leaders also adopted a post-signature implementation plan detailing the initiatives to be implemented at national and regional levels under the first phase.

In addition, they directed negotiators to engage on the second phase, covering trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights, and cross border investment.

It is expected that establishment of the TFTA "will bolster intra-regional trade by creating a wider market, increase investment flows, enhance competitiveness, and encourage regional infrastructure development, as well as pioneer the integration of the African continent," through the future establishment of an pan-African Economic Community.

Ratification of the agreement will now be taken forward in each member country. A simple majority of 14 countries will be required to ratify and then sign the agreement before the TFTA can come into effect, probably in 2017.

South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said that, "in the context of markedly improved growth prospects for Africa alongside intensifying global competition for Africa's resources and markets, the need to enhance access to African markets is more urgent."

"The TFTA is an important initiative in accelerating regional integration efforts aimed at ensuring that African countries trade with each other on terms, at least as favorable as other competitors," he added.

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