Lusaka, Wednesday, July 31,2019: As the COMESA, EAC, SADC region awaits the attainment of the required threshold on 14 member/partners states to ratify the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement, technical teams charged with the responsibility of preparing the ground for its implementation are in full gear.
Last week in Nairobi Kenya, the Tripartite Task Force (TTF) concluded a series of meetings for Technical Working Groups to facilitate development of working procedures, operational manuals and technical guidelines for the implementation of the TFTA Agreement.
These were: the 35 Meeting of the TTF on Development of Tripartite Capacity Building Strategy; the Meeting of Tripartite Experts on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) /Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); the First Meeting of Technical Working Group (TWG) on Trade in Services and the First Meeting of the TWG on Competition Policy
So far, 22 countries out of the 28 have signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement since its inception in June 2015. Five of the countries; Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and recently, Rwanda have ratified the Agreement.
Among the key outputs of the meetings was the establishment of a Technical Working Group on Competition Policy, and development of its Terms of Reference to guide its work. The appointed team of experts commenced their tasks immediately and will, among other tasks, undertake a situational analysis on Competition and Consumer Protection Policies and Laws in Member/Partner States and RECs.
The Director of Trade and Customs in COMESA, Dr Francis Mangeni, who led the COMESA team, described the outputs of the meetings as ground-breaking:
“In particular on Competition Policy, we have produced in one seating a comprehensive zero draft for consultations and text-based negotiations. This has put the process on a good trajectory,” Dr Mangeni said
The working group on Tripartite Capacity Building Strategy has also commenced the development of an institutional framework to implement the Tripartite Programmes. It has also finalized the First Draft Tripartite Capacity Building Strategy.
“The draft has been circulated to the Tripartite RECs for comments and is due for finalization in the margins of the upcoming Tripartite Meetings planned for 5 – 10 August in Zanzibar,” the report of the meetings stated.
Experts dealing with the Tripartite TBT/SPS considered the existing tools in each Regional Economic Community (EAC/COMESA/SADC) with a view to establishing and escalating regional metrology, conformity assessment, accreditation, health and food safety infrastructure to the tripartite level.
The meeting proposed additional tool to guide the Ninth Meeting of the TWG on TBT/SPS and NTBs, planned for 5-10 August 2019 in Zanzibar.
The Technical Working Group on Trade in Services was also established as well as its Terms of Reference and Roadmap to guide its work. This team will lead negotiations that will eventually create a single services market for the Tripartite RECs of COMESA, EAC and SADC.