African leaders launch largest free trade area to jack up growth on the continent

AFRICA – A new tripartite free trade area that is aimed at fast tracking economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa has been launched in Egypt.

 A statement issued by the organisers said the Comesa-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade area was launched on Wednesday by the heads of State and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). 

The statement said the Tripartite FTA represents an integrated market of 26 countries with a combined population of 632 million which is 57 percent of Africa’s people; and with a total GDP of USD1.3trn (2014), about 58 percent of Africa’s GDP.

It further said the establishment of a Tripartite FTA 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.

The tripartite integration process is based on a developmental approach anchored on three pillars namely: Market Integration symbolised by the Tripartite FTA; Infrastructure Development to facilitate and enhance connectivity, communication and movement of goods and persons and reduce the cost of doing business; and Industrial Development which will enhance competitiveness and address supply and productive capacity constraints.

According to the statement, the tripartite initiative is a decisive step to achieve the African vision of establishing the African Economic Community envisioned in the Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos of 1980, Abuja Treaty of 1991 as well as the Resolution of the African Union Summit held in  Gambia in 2006 that directed the African Union Commission and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to harmonise and coordinate policies and programmes of RECs as important strategies for rationalization, increasing intra-Africa trade and investment, integration of tripartite economies in the global economy.

The Third Tripartite Summit also directed that negotiations on outstanding issues from Phase I to operationalise the Tripartite FTA be concluded expeditiously.

It wanted the commencement of Phase II negotiations covering trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investment

Another directive was that related to programmes of work and roadmaps be developed on the Industrialisation and Infrastructure Pillars well-resourced and prioritised.

June 13, 2015; http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/index.php?l=81184

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