The Republic of Madagascar has become the 20th country to sign the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement. The agreement brings together three regional economic communities-COMESA, EAC and SADC- into a single free trade area.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) constitutes 57% of Africa’s population with a combined GDP of USD1.3 trillion as of 2015, making it one of the largest free trade areas in the world.
Republic of South Africa signed the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement during the 6th meeting of the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee of on Trade, Customs, Finance, Economic Matters and Home/Internal Affairs (TSMC) thereby becoming the 19th country.
18 Member/Partner States had signed the Agreement and Egypt was the only country to have ratified it. A total of 14 ratifications are required for the Agreement to enter force. South Africa and Madagascar were ready to sign the Agreement and encouraged the remaining countries to follow suit. South Africa subsequently signed the Agreement in Kampala.
At that Kampala meeting, the Secretary General reported progress on the legal scrubbing of Annexes II, IV and X, negotiations on tariff offers and the signature and ratification of the Agreement. There had been limited progress on Phase II negotiations and the Agreement on the Movement of Business Persons. However, studies on Phase II issues had been undertaken and disseminated and that TTF was in the process of mobilizing resources to facilitate the necessary consultative meetings.
At the 6th meeting of the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee, Uganda’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde, stated that the intra-Tripartite trade was only 19% of the continent’s USD930 billion total trade and this could be attributed to low industrialization, restricted movement of labour, poor infrastructure and high dependency on the export of unprocessed commodities.
The Minister observed that the Tripartite provided the opportunities to unlock the enormous trade and investment potential of the bloc. In this regard, the business community was waiting anxiously towards the opening up of the market of over 600 million people. She further observed that almost all the Annexes had been finalized save for the built in agenda.
At the same meeting, South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Dr. Rob Davies observed that the outstanding Annexes had been concluded and highlighted the need to have a functional FTA that would benefit the business community. He noted that the TFTA was a building block for the Continental FTA, hence the need to make more progress in the TFTA negotiations.