COMESA appreciates Tripartite FTA progress

Swazi Observer, Swaziland

COMESA appreciates Tripartite FTA progress

By Manqoba Makhubu

29 December 2015

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Council of Ministers has appreciated the progress made so far in the negotiating process that include finalising the outstanding work in Phase 1 of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA).

His Majesty King Mswati III signed the TFTA agreement on June 15, 2015, five days after the official launch by heads of state and government in Sharm El Sheikh Egypt on June 10, 2015.

In its 35th meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia in December 2015, the council appreciated the progress made in the negotiations process which included finalising the outstanding work in Phase I relating to rules of origin, elimination of import duties and trade remedies.

Report

According to a progress report presented to the council, a draft tripartite agreement had been developed and more work on this track was set to continue in phase II negotiations.

“Negotiations continue in parallel to Phase II negotiations covering trade in services, competition policy, intellectual property rights and other trade related issues,” reads the report.

The council also noted that seven out of the 10 annexes that contained issues under negotiations were finalised. The outstanding issues were tariff elimination schedules (annex I), trade remedies (annex II) and rules of origin (annex IV).

“The main TFTA agreement and the following annexes have undergone legal scrubbing: annex V on customs cooperation; annex III on non-tariff barriers; annex VI on trade facilitation; annex VII on transit trade and transit facilitation; annex VIII on technical barriers to trade; and annex IX on sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures,” said the report.

According to the council, as of December 2015, 16 countries had signed the TFTA but were yet to ratify it.

The TFTA would be implemented in about two years after ratifications and approvals from governments of member states.

The hopes that the FTA would see the light of day are high, as at least 14 tripartite member states are required to ratify the agreement to enable the agreement to be on the roll.

Meanwhile, four months ago Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Gideon Dlamini assured the nation that government was ready and willing to get the ball rolling with regards to paving way for the implementation of TFTA.

Opportunities

He said this was critical as the TFTA would present wide array opportunities for the country.

Dlamini said amongst many benefits, the TFTA would allow businessmen and women to trade freely and cheaply.

He said free movement of people across borders was key on the agenda for the tripartite as this would stimulate business development and investment opportunities for the three regions.

The minister said the TFTA would also create an assortment of job opportunities as companies involved in the production of goods and services across borders would be established in the region.

Dlamini affirmed his initial commitment towards the TFTA in the ministry of commerce second quarter performance report 2015/16. He said the Tripartite Technical Committee on Industrial Development (TTCID) had already adopted rules of procedure and modalities for cooperation and industrial development.

He noted that so far there were no challenges faced by the TTCID committee, which means that hitherto the prospects of ratification looked brighter.

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