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Regional dialogue set to ensure the inclusiveness of the private sector in Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement negotiations

Comesa Business Council | 28 January 2016

Regional Dialogue set to ensure the inclusiveness of the private sector in Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement negotiations

The COMESA Business Councils (CBC) together with the East African Business Council (EABC) and the Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI) as part of the Tripartite Private Sector Platform will convene the inaugural Tripartite Regional Dialogue to ensure inclusive participation of the private sector in the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) negotiations, at Hotel Villa Portofino in Kigali, Rwanda.

“It goes without doubt that African policymakers have recognized more needs to be done in trade policy reforms if the Africa rising narrative is to fulfil its full potential. What is more, this dialogue is a key step forward on that journey that will provide a platform for networking and fostering new relationship for business and advocacy purposes,” said CBC’s CEO, Ms. Sandra Uwera while speaking ahead of the dialogue.

In June 2015, the Heads of State and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) officially launched the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area (FTA), commonly known as the Tripartite FTA. The grand FTA covers 26 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa with a consumer base of approximately 625 million customers. Based on the theme “Harmonizing and developing a private sector position on TFTA Rules of Origin (RoO)”, the dialogue seeks to address concerns relating to the different industrial capacities in the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and different RoO regimes. These private sector have been consistently advocating in various platforms that the Tripartite FTA RoO should be structured in a manner which doesn’t restrict trade, and must be simple for customs administrations to administer as well as business to comply with a reasonable cost. In addition, it should not be more stringent than existing rules under the regional trade arrangements of the RECs in order to promote intra-regional trade.

Issues of RoO are fundamental for the private sector; as it can facilitate or impede intra-regional trade and business development in the region. Thus, non-tariff barriers can become contentious issues as complex rules, and can stifle trade. It is within this background that the Tripartite Private Sector Platform instituted a study to assess and harmonize the positions of the tripartite private sector on RoO for input into the TFTA negotiations. The Tripartite Private Sector Platform is being supported by the African Development Bank funded Tripartite Private Sector Platform. The study reviews the interim Agreement on the RoO and its impact on the private Sector; Analyzes the best practices on RoO in view of practices in other regional and international agreements. The findings and recommendations of the private sector position paper will be presented by the Tripartite Private Sector Platform during the TFTA technical negotiations; thereby ensuring the inclusiveness of the private sector in the negotiations.

“A Tripartite FTA will bolster intra-regional trade by creating a wider market, increase investment flows, enhance competiveness and encourage regional infrastructure development as well as pioneer the integration of the African continent. Similar efforts should be engaged in resolving divergences among member states and having a set of rules of origin which can enable the three Regional Communities achieve the general objectives of the Tripartite Free Trade Area,” said East African Business Council (EABC) Executive Director Ms. Lilian Awinja in her address to the private sector partners.

The two day dialogue will bring together participants from the Tripartite REC Business Councils, APEX Business Associations, Manufacturing Associations and Key businesses from the 26 Tripartite Member states. The participants will also get the chance to deliberate on Business Insights on RoO in COMESA, EAC, SADC; Agreed Interim RoO; Key Outstanding RoO; such as- Textiles, Flour, Crude Oil, Textiles, Base metals, Machinery, Vehicles, Photographic, Cinematographic, Medical or Surgical instruments, Miscellaneous Machinery, Works of Art; Simplified Trade Regime; Administration and Issuing of Certificates and E-Certificates.

 source: Comesa Business Council