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Free trade bloc planned for Africa

The New Age, South Africa

Free trade bloc planned for Africa

21 May 2012

Plans to create a 26-nation free trade area by integrating three existing African trade blocs by July 2014 are on track and the only major sticking point is likely to be harmonising rules of origin, the three blocs said on Friday.

United, the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aim to create a free market of 525 million people with an output of $1trillion.

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies has emphasised the need for integrating African markets.

“Africa has emerged as South Africa’s most important market for our manufactured exports.

Africa is well-poised to become the next global economic growth pole, but its full potential will remain unfulfilled unless we address the constraints imposed by poor infrastructure, small, fragmented markets, and inadequate economic diversification,” he said.

“We have advanced an ambitious developmental integration agenda in our engagements with our African partners that combines programmes for market integration with infrastructure development and policy work to support economic diversification and industrialisation.

We have pursued this with a good degree of success in the SA Customs Union, the SADC and in the Tripartite Free Trade Area negotiations.

As African economies continue to grow and as barriers to intra-African trade are removed, South African firms will find ever-growing opportunities for profitable business on the continent.”

Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said tough negotiations on rules aimed at making cross-border trade easy for firms and small traders lie ahead. – Reuters