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Tripartite Free Trade Area within Sight

COMESA is in the final stages of preparations for the Tripartite Summit, which is scheduled to take place on 19 - 20 December 2014. The summit is expected to launch the

COMESA -EAC- SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) thus heralding the culmination of intense negotiations that have been going on for the last six years.

The negotiations on the technical frameworks for the establishment of a mega free trade area will bring together the 26 Member States in one market.

The launch of a regional free trade area has remained a moving target since 2011 when the Summit adopted the tripartite agreement. According to the road map approved by the Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government in June 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Tripartite FTA should have been launched in June 2014. However, this deadline was missed owing to several factors key among them lack of funding after Trademark Southern Africa, which had been financially supporting these negotiations, closed down.

The other major sticking points that have slowed down the implementation of the TFTA were lack of agreements on substantive issues. These include negotiations on the rules of origin, trade remedies and dispute settlement, customs co-operation, documentation procedures and transit instruments.

In June this year COMESA assumed the chairmanship of the tripartite and with it came new energy to deliver the TFTA before the year ends. A flurry of meetings have since taken place between the Three Technical Working Groups with the objective of finalizing the outstanding work before the launch of Tripartite FTA Agreement on trade in goods.

The launch of the tripartite in December will no doubt bring tremendous benefits for the 600 million people in the tripartite region, through the removal of inconsistencies and costs in regional integration brought about by overlapping memberships especially in the area of trade policy and trade facilitation.

Source: COMESA


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