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Leaders Meet To Discuss Pan-African FTA

by Robert Lee,, London

24 October 2008

Kgalema Motlanthe, the President of South Africa, has met regional economic bodies in Kampala, Uganda, to discuss the possibility of creating a Free Trade Area (FTA) incorporating 26 African states.

President Motlanthe attended a Tripartite meeting in Uganda with the South African Development Community (SADC), The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), as well as the East African Community (EAC). The aim of the meeting was to discuss the declared intention of SADC to establish a customs union by 2010.

The meeting in Kampala considered the possibility of establishing a pan-regional FTA. For South Africa, the opening up of markets in SADC would provide access to an additional population of over 200 million people.

Foreign Affairs Director General, Ayanda Ntsaluba, said on Wednesday: "The general sense in Kampala is that there needs to be some detailed work done to look at all the elements that will help shape the FTA.”

There would be 26 member states included in the FTA, said the Director General, adding that their combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would amount to about $650 billion.

"For countries in the SADC region, it is consistent with what the African Union has advocated with regard to how we should move toward substantive regional integration.”

"We have always argued that we need to establish strong Regional Economic Communities (REC), and secondly you must encourage those communities to interact among themselves as an intermediate step to the creation of an African common market."

“The RECs are key to implementing regional integration programmes in trade and economic development including the establishment of the FTA and a common customs union.”

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