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Tripartite African Trade Talks To Start By Mid-2011

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

11 March 2011

South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, has said that negotiations for the development of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East African States (COMESA) will commence towards the middle of 2011.

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 between 500m – 700m people.

There is, therefore, a significant potential to grow intra-regional trade, and the tripartite FTA has been looked on as a possible forerunner of a closer pan-African economic community.

He disclosed at the 5th Africa Economic Forum that talks on the tripartite FTA are expected to be held in South Africa around the middle of this year, and would initially be concentrated on the trade in goods. When first suggested last September, it was indicated 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.

The tripartite FTA should combine the current FTAs of COMESA, SADC and EAC on a tariff and quota-free basis. The three regional FTAs should, except for certain temporary exemptions for sensitive products, already be operating on that basis by next year.

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