The member States who are partners in the Tripartite Free Trade Area are expected to progressively eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods, liberalise trade in services and co-operate on customs matters following the launch of Africa’s largest trade bloc on Wednesday.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area was officially launched in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The TFTA represents an integrated market of 26 countries that are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) with a combined population of 632 million people which is 57 percent of Africa’s population; and with a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1,3 trillion (2014) contributing 58 percent of Africa’s GDP.
Following the signing, the member States will initiate a ratification process through their legislative assemblies. The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by three quarters of the member States.
Member/partner States are also to expedite the process towards the operationalisation of the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA by finalising outstanding issues, which include the elimination of import duties, trade remedies and Rules of Origin that will form part of the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA Agreement.
Phase II of the negotiations covering trade in services, co-operation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investments will also commence.
In signing of the agreement the leaders committed to 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.
President Mugabe is a firm believer of industrialisation as the essence of development.
In April, as SADC Chair, President Mugabe superintended the launch of SADC’s industrialisation strategy which allows greater integration, sustainable development and improvement of the people’s conditions in the region.
Working as single large economic bloc would help the region benefit from the abundant resources through beneficiation and value addition.
Value addition and beneficiation is a key pillar in Zim-Asset.
For instance, SADC is endowed with abundant and diverse natural resources with the region’s mineral sector alone contributing to world production about 6 percent of coal, 7 percent of nickel, 8 percent of copper, 13 percent of uranium, 15 percent of manganese, 18 percent of cobalt, 21 percent of zinc, 26 percent of gold, 41 percent of chromite, 55 percent of diamonds and 72 percent of the platinum group of metals.
Despite the region’s rich and diverse endowments, about 70 percent of the people are living below the poverty datum line.
The Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha said the TFTA agreement requires member States to accord each other the Most-Favoured-Nation treatment, which means that advantages that any Tripartite Member/Partner State offers to third countries would be offered to other Tripartite Member/Partner States. The purpose is to ensure that the Tripartite Member/Partner State trade amongst each other on terms as good as or better than that offered to non-FTA partners.
“A Tripartite Member/Partner State shall accord to products imported from other Tripartite Member/Partner States treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like domestic products, after the imported products have passed customs and that this treatment covers all measures affecting the sale and conditions for sale of such products in accordance with Article 111 of GATT 1994,” said Minister Bimha.
He said Tripartite Member/Partner States shall not impose new import duties or charges of equivalent effect as provided for under the agreement. Tripartite Member/Partner States shall progressively eliminate import duties.
All Tripartite Member/Partner States shall eliminate all existing non-tariff barriers to trade with each other and shall not impose any new ones and shall not impose quantitative restrictions on imports or exports in trade with other Tripartite Member/Partner States.
“Goods shall be eligible for preferential treatment under this agreement if they are originating goods in any of the Tripartite Member/Partner States in accordance with the criteria and conditions set out under Rules of Origin,” said Minister Bimha.