Extraordinary summit to be held on Africa’s CFTA this March

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SUNS | 9 February 2018

Extraordinary summit to be held on Africa’s CFTA this March

An extraordinary summit of the African Union is scheduled to be held in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018 to consider and sign the Framework Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

According to an Information Brief by Third World Network-Africa on 7 February, this follows the adoption by the Trade Ministers in Niamey, Niger in December 2017 of the Framework Agreement on the CFTA as well as Protocols on Trade in Goods and Protocols on Trade in Services with an in-built agenda.

African leaders, at the thirtieth ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Assembly in Addis Ababa ending on 29 January 2018, decided to hold the extraordinary summit on the CFTA on 21 March 2018.

A press release issued by the African Union on 30 January states that on the CFTA, "the Assembly decides to hold an Extraordinary Summit on 21 March 2018, preceded by an Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council on 19 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, to consider the CFTA Legal instruments and sign the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area ..."

The CFTA adopted by the Trade Ministers still needs some fine-tuning and legal scrubbing.

Towards this end, currently, a two-week meeting at the technical and senior trade officials’ level is underway in Addis Ababa.

The meeting will span the whole of this week and the next (5-17 February 2018) to tidy up the agreement as part of preparations towards the Extraordinary Summit in Kigali.

The main outcomes of the CFTA were arrived at through a series of meetings especially towards the end of 2017.

The African Union Commission (AUC) first organised a three-week meeting for the Technical Working Groups (TWG) and the 8th Negotiating Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, from 6-25 November 2017.

The Technical Working Groups that were present included Trade in Services, Dedicated Session on Goods, Rules of Origin Working Group, Working Group on Customs Procedures and Transit and Technical Barriers to Trade Working Group.

The 8th Negotiating Forum arrived at three outcomes on the Framework Agreement on the CFTA: Protocol on Goods and Protocol on Services and an in-built agenda.

This was immediately followed by a week-long meeting of senior trade officials and African Ministers of Trade from 27 November to 2 December 2017 in Niamey, Niger.

At that meeting, the Trade Ministers approved the three outcomes on the CFTA and tasked the technical and the senior officials to tidy-up the agreement within the first quarter of 2018.

The CFTA was launched by the African Heads of State in June 2015 and was scheduled to be concluded in 2017.

"However, various stakeholders have been worried with the speedy agenda of the CFTA processes and how the eventual outcome will address Africa’s need for structural economic transformation," according to TWN-Africa.

source: SUNS