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Saturday, June 10, 2017 marked two years since the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was launched in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. So far, 18 countries from the eastern and southern African region have signed the Agreement but non has ratified it. 

The Tripartite brings together three regional economic communities namely COMESA, the East Africa Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It has 26 Member States with a combined population of 632 million people and a Gross Domestic Product of US$1.3 trillion.

The tripartite FTA is anchored on three pillars namely: market integration, industrial development and infrastructure development. Once fully signed and ratified, the FTA is expected to enhance regional integration, harmonize trade and investment regimes and infrastructure programmes, facilitate movement of business persons and pursue development of common programmes for effective and efficient use of available resources.

Last week in Lusaka, a Status of the Tripartite Free Trade Area report was presented to participants in workshop on Transport and Logistics organized by UNECA, the Port Management Association for Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA) and the Zambian government.

Addressing the participants, Senior Transport Economist at COMESA Secretariat Mr. Bernard Dzawanda appealed to the member States to quickly ratify the tripartite Agreement to make it functional.

“Even though significant strides have been made in the negotiating process, implementation of the Agreement is behind schedule and these delays are contributing to the slow pace at which Member States are signing the Agreement,” Mr. Dzawanda pointed out.

Some of the key issues to be addressed which are covered in the Annexes include the need for all the 26 countries to sign and ratify the Agreement. However, for the Agreement to come into force, 14 out of the 26 countries need to ratify.

However, some of the key annexes to the agreement are not yet in place as they are still being negotiated. Some Annexes have been adopted and negotiations are currently underway between some States. In addition, the exchange and negotiation of tariff offers by Tripartite Member States is also lagging behind.