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Tripartite African Trade Talks Show Progress

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

18 May 2011

Ministers from countries within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met recently in Lusaka to discuss the progress made towards the proposed tripartite free trade agreement (FTA).

The meeting’s discussions centred on the ways to establish a single market by way of that tripartite FTA and thereby promote and attract both cross-border and foreign direct investment. COMESA, SADC and EAC include a total of 26 countries, some of which are already members of more than one of the region’s trade blocs, and a tripartite pan-regional FTA would open up a market of 580m people.

The ministers therefore looked at proposals aimed at streamlining trading arrangements among the membership of the three regional trade areas, and reviewed proposed solutions to the challenges of their overlapping membership as regards trade and economic relations. It was recognized that one of the limiting factors in the region has been the persistence of non-tariff barriers and the poor infrastructure in which to move goods and services.

Chairman of the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite task force, and COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya, revealed that a significant amount of work has been done in the past three years towards having the tripartite FTA.

He added that “the (tripartite) FTA encompasses 26 countries, which is about half of Africa, with a gross domestic product GDP of USD875bn. In short, this is a region of vast economic potential, which, with the necessary investment, and through the joining up of markets, can be converted into a prosperous region that will benefit all of its residents and citizens.”

TAGS: South Africa | tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | Djibouti | Eritrea | Mauritius | Swaziland | Zimbabwe | law | tariffs | Angola | Comoros | Ethiopia | Lesotho | Libya | Madagascar | Malawi | Mozambique | Sudan | agreements | Botswana | Congo, Democratic Republic of the | Egypt | Kenya | Namibia | Rwanda | Uganda | Zambia | trade | Burundi | Seychelles | Tanzania | Africa

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