Current Date:

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Tripartite Free Trade Area: The Biggest Trade Grouping in Africa and the World

The member states in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tripartite have announced establishment of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (Tripartite FTA), in recognition of the initiatives made by the three regional economic groupings to be a single investment area.
The Tripartite FTA represents an integrated market of 26 African countries with a combined population of more than 600 million people and extends from Cape Town in the south to Cairo in the north.
The final communique of the summit conference of the African economic groupings COMESA, EAC and SADC Tripartite (2015) announced the launching of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (Tripartite FTA); that represents an integrated market of 26 countries with a combined population of 632 million people which is 57% of Africa’s population; and with a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD$ 1.3 Trillion (2014) contributes 58% of Africa’s GDP.
The communique pointed that that the establishment of the Tripartite FTA will bolster intra-regional trade by creating a wider market, increase investment flows, enhance competitiveness and encourage regional infrastructure development as well as pioneer the integration of the African continent.
The communique reiterated that the tripartite integration process is based on a developmental approach anchored on three pillars namely: Market Integration, Infrastructure Development to facilitate and enhance connectivity, communication and movement of goods and persons and reduce the cost of doing business.
Secretary General of COMESA Sindiso Ngwenya, affirmed in his address before the summit of the African groupings that the declaration of the signing of the Tripartite FTA agreement among the African economic groupings signals start of development and golden era in the tripartite area and the African continent.
He called for upgrading infrastructures among member states of the three African economic groupings.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement comprises 44 articles, comprising promoting economic and social development of the Region; creating a large single market with free movement of goods and services to promote intra-regional trade; enhancing the regional and continental integration processes; and building a strong Tripartite Free Trade Area for the benefit of the people of the Region.
The agreement stipulates specific objectives for purposes of fulfilling and realising the objectives of the agreement that Tripartite Member/Partner States shall: progressively eliminate tariffs and Non-Tariff Barriers to trade in goods; liberalise trade in services.
The draft agreement also stipulates measures to combat dumping and for balance in prices.
The agreement contains provisions on cooperation among member states in various fields such as coordination of financial policies, promotion of capital and commodity markets, trade policies and boosting their cooperation with partners at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
This is besides enhancing cooperation among member states in the international and multilateral negotiations.
The agreement, further, allows member states to enter into preferential agreements among each other that serve the objectives of the agreement.
It allows a member state whose balance of payments faces external financial difficulties to adopt suitable measures to overcome these difficulties in accordance with guidelines set by the Council of the Tripartite FTA.
The agreement stipulates establishment of executive bodies for the Tripartite FTA, which include the summit conference of member states, the Council of Ministers and the sectoral ministerial committee that is concerned with cooperation and financial and customs affairs besides the sectoral ministerial committee on legal affairs.
The Sudan, through its participation in the ministerial conference of the Tripartite FTA, has obtained approval for its program and proposals to expedite completion of the African free trade project that extends from Cape Town to Cairo, constituting the biggest economic grouping in the continent and the world at large.
Former Secretary General of COMESA Secretariat at the Sudanese Trade Ministry Mohamed Ali Abdallah pointed out that Sudan presented proposals at the ministerial conference of the Tripartite FTA that dealt with completion of the attachments to the agreement concerning the certificate of origin, settlement of trade disputes and issuance of visas for businesspersons.
He pointed out that Sudan, further, called for ratification of the agreement by the parliaments of member states.
The economic expert, Dr. Mohamed Al-Nair, on his part, affirmed that the joining of Sudan to the Tripartite FTA is important, saying that this requires greater preparations as Tripartite FTA represents an exercise to the country prior to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).
He called for increased agricultural and industrial production in the Sudan and improving the quality of goods, indicating that survival in the coming stage would be for those that produce high-quality goods at lower prices.
He also urged improving the trade balance of the country by increasing its exports for good preparations for joining WTO.