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Region’s Ministers call for free trade

Daily Monitor, Uganda

Region’s Ministers call for free trade

By Alfred Nyongesa Wandera, Kampala

23 October 2008

The first Tripartite Comesa-EAC-SADC Council of Ministers that opened on Monday at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort seeks the summit of heads of state and governments to endorse the creation of a free trade area which will cut across the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and institutionalise it by giving it a legal underpinning.

In a speech read on behalf of Secretary General of the East African Community, Mr Juma Mwapachu, by Ambassador Julius Onen, he said the RECs meetings have been well structured even though without the legal underpinnings. “The Tripartite arrangement has been able to address key issues of how best to work within the multiple memberships without it being impediment towards realization of the Abuja Treaty,” Mr Mwapachu said.

He reiterated the need to harmonise standards, coordination in competition policies, identification, removal and monitoring of non-tariff barriers, customs procedures and documentation, rules of origin, among other issues affecting the economic blocs.

He said the misery and suffering of the African continent can only be solved through the RECs as a building bloc towards African vision. “The three RECs felt the need to pioneer a historic summit involving the heads of state of the respective economic blocs and later build upon this kind of arrangement to cover other RECs,” he said.

He added: “In the efforts of deepening Africa’s integration, and as pioneers of such tripartite process, I trust that we can collectively move this process forward humbly beginning with a Free Trade Area and infrastructure development for the region.”

Kenyan deputy prime minister and minister of Trade Mr Uhuru Kenyatta said the Tripartite conference has come at the right time when international financial markets are being hit by exceptional uncertainty and profound change.

“It is important to acknowledge that the global financial crisis, soaring oil and food prices may lead to the weakening of our economies and deterioration of the global economic outlook,” Mr Kenyatta said.

“This Tripartite meeting therefore has an exceptional opportunity to define a policy response to mitigate the intensification of this turmoil through greater regional cooperation,” he added. The Tripartite framework, which is an arrangement among the Secretariats of COMESA, EAC and SADC, was initiated in 2005 in Kigali, Rwanda.