Mauritius, Monday, October 9, 2017: Mauritius has signed the COMESA- EAC – SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement. This brings to 21 out of the 27 countries that have signed the regional trade framework. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade Hon. Minister Seetanah LUTCHMEENARAIDOO signed the agreement in Eben Cybercity in Mauritius.
Secretary General of COMESA Sindiso Ngwenya witnessed the signing.
The Minister said this was one of the three major free trade agreements that his country has lined up for signature this year in line with its vision of promoting trade and integration. The other two will be between Mauritius and India and with China.
The tripartite agreement was launched in June 2015. Currently only Egypt and Uganda have signed and ratified the agreement. A minimum of 14 countries are required to ratify the agreement for it to come into force.
Secretary General said the agreement has the potential to unlock sustainable development in Africa by bringing close to 700 million people in one market with a gross domestic product of $1.4 trillion. For this to happen, he said the approach to negotiations on tariffs and market access which lead to signing and ratification must change.
“It was envisaged when the tripartite was mooted, that it would take three years to complete negotiations and come into force since the three regional economic communities all had FTAs,” he noted.
He said governments should involve their respective private sectors in the consultations as these are the key drivers of regional trade to will give impetus to the tripartite process. These include the small and medium enterprises which are expected to drive the industrial pillar which is one of the three pillars of the tripartite. The others are market integration and infrastructure development.
“In the next six months, negotiations at the national and regional level will ensure that the private sector plays its proper role,” said Ngwenya who will be taking over the leadership of the Tripartite Task Torce on 23 October 2017. “This how to make the tripartite work.”
Minister LUTCHMEENARAIDOO said his country’s current strategy for Africa is for deeper integration and the signing of the Tripartite FTA was a demonstration of this commitment. He expressed optimism of benefitting from the tripartite given his country’s vibrant and proactive private sector
He said: “Even the best of the free trade area agreement won’t go anywhere, if not followed by the private sector.”
After the signing, a two-day national workshop will be conducted by the COMESA Secretariat to raise awareness about the tripartite FTA amongst key stakeholders in Mauritius.