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COMESA, EAC, SADC ministers agree to launch Africa’s largest Free Trade Area

Swazi Observer, Swaziland

COMESA, EAC, SADC ministers agree to launch Africa’s largest Free Trade Area

28 October 2014

By Nomthandazo Nkambule

The Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be launched in mid-December, 2014.

COMESA Secretary General and Chairperson of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite task force Sindiso Ngwenya said the Tripartite FTA offered significant opportunities for business and investment within the Tripartite and would act as a magnet for attracting foreign direct investment into the Tripartite region.

He said the business community, in particular, would benefit from an improved and harmonised trade regime which reduced the cost of doing business as a result of elimination of overlapping trade regimes due to multiple memberships.

Ngwenya said the decision to launch the Tripartite FTA took into account the fact that the majority of the Tripartite member/partner states have made ambitious tariff offers and were agreed on Rules of Origin to be applied in the interim whilst further work continues on product specific Rules of Origin.

“The Tripartite sectoral committee of ministers meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi from October 24 to 25, 2014 has agreed that the Tripartite summit of heads of state and government to be held in Egypt in mid-December, 2014 will launch the Tripartite FTA.
“The Tripartite TFA encompassing 26 member/partner states from COMESA, EAC SADC, with a combined population of 625 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 1.2 trillion, will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58% of the continent’s GDP,” he said in a press statement.
He said the Tripartite FTA popularly known as the Grand Free Trade Area, would be the largest economic bloc on the continent and the launching pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017.

Ngwenya said the launching of the Tripartite FTA was the first phase of implementing a developmental regional integration strategy that placed high priority on infrastructure development, industrialisation and free movement of business persons.
He said in order for the Tripartite FTA to realise inclusive and equitable growth, the meeting agreed on the need for expeditious formulation and implementation of a regional industrial programme.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the Ministerial meeting Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry of Zimbabwe, hailed the agreement to launch the Grand FTA as a milestone in regional and continental integration.

“Africa has now joined the league of emerging economies and the grand FTA will play a pivotal and catalytic role in the transformation of the continent,” she declared at the close of the meeting.

“We have made significant progress in negotiations on trade in goods, and we now need to expedite negotiations on trade-related areas, including trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy to ensure equity, among all citizens of the wider region,” Mabuwa said.

...Swaziland’s scope of trade to increase

The soon-to-be-launched Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) will increase scope for trade for Swaziland.
Principal Secretary in the ministry of commerce, industry and trade Jinno Nkambule said with the coming in of the Tripartite FTA trade would open and products the country would produce must be for trade.
He said hindrance of trade would be removed adding that trade facilitation, industrialisation was ongoing.
Nkambule said Swaziland had representation at the meeting in Burundi where it was decided that the Tripartite FTA must be launched in mid-December.
“Swaziland is part of the Tripartite therefore whatever is decided also ropes in this country. The benefit is a very clear one. The launch of the Tripartite FTA means the implementation of agreements must start,” he said.