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Momentum Grows Towards African Trade Bloc

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

28 February 2011

South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, has said that his country is making an effort to join together the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East African States (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).

While COMESA, SADC and ECA include a total of 26 countries, some of those are already members of more than one of the region’s trade blocs. Building on that, a tripartite pan-regional free trade agreement (FTA) would envisage greater economic coordination between the countries and, with a combined gross domestic product of more than USD600bn and a population of 700m, has been looked on as a possible forerunner of a closer pan-African economic community.

Davies added that a tripartite meeting of the three trade blocs would be held shortly in South Africa, and that there are indications that a tripartite FTA is under serious consideration. When first suggested last September, it was hoped that such a meeting would lay out a roadmap, and constitute a tripartite secretariat, that would aid the negotiation and completion of the FTA by 2012.

It is proposed that the tripartite FTA should combine the current FTAs of COMESA, SADC and EAC on a tariff and quota-free basis. It is expected that the three regional FTAs would, except for certain temporary exemptions for sensitive products, already be operating on that basis. It has also been said that the combined tripartite free trade area could be instrumental in attracting additional investment into the region.

TAGS: South Africa | tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | law | tariffs | agreements | Botswana | trade | Africa

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