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The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area was officially launched today setting the stage for the establishment of a single market for the 26 African countries in the Eastern and Southern African Region.

The tripartite Heads of State and Government and Plenipotentiaries representing their Heads of State and Government appended their signatures on the Agreement at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

The leaders directed the Member/Partner States to expedite the process towards the operationalization of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area by finalizing outstanding issues. These include the Elimination of Import Duties, Trade Remedies and Rules of Origin, which will form part of the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA Agreement.

Following the signing, the Countries will proceed to initiate the ratification process through their legislative assemblies. The Agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by three quarters of the Member States.

The leaders also directed the commencement of Phase II negotiations covering trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investments.

Further, they directed that all negotiations, including outstanding work be carried out in accordance with principles, processes and institutional structures as approved by Summit.

The Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Trade, Finance, Economic Matters and Home/Internal Affairs was directed to develop a Roadmap on Phase II negotiations, providing timelines for key activities relating to the negotiations, their conclusion, and the implementation of the outcomes thereof

The leaders further directed that work on the Industrial and Infrastructure Pillars which are complementary to the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA is expedited and negotiations on Movement of Business Persons continues on a separate track.

The landmark signing of the Tripartite FTA comes seven years since the Heads of State and Government of the three Regional Economic Communities decided in their First Tripartite Summit of 22 October 2008 in Kampala to deepen Inter-regional Cooperation and Integration amongst COMESA, EAC and SADC.

Subsequently in June 2011, the leaders launched the Negotiations for the Establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area which has now been realized within the set time-frames.

In signing of the Agreement the leaders reaffirmed the developmental integration approach built on the three pillars of industrial development, infrastructure development and market integration that was adopted at the Second Tripartite Summit.

Tripartite FTA 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 establishment of a Tripartite FTA is expected to 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.

Heads of State and Government The Tripartite Summit were HE Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, of Egypt; HE Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; HE Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika of Malawi; HE Dr. Hage Geingob of Namibia; HE Omer Hassan Ahmed Al -Bashir of Sudan and HE Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Others were HE Prosper Bazombaza, First Vice President of the Republic of Burundi, HE Mohamed Ali Soilihi , Vice President of the Republic of the Union of the Comoros HE William S. Ruto,Deputy President of Kenya, HE. Danny Faure, Vice President of Seychelles, HE Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Vice President of Tanzania, HE Agostinho do Rosário, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mozambique HE The Right Honourable, Anastase Murekezi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda. Other heads of delegations were Ministers.