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Updates from the 7th African Ministers of Trade Meeting (12-13 December 2018)

By Talkmore Chidede
23 Jan 2019
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Updates from the 7th African Ministers of Trade Meeting (12-13 December 2018)

African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT) held their 7th meeting in Egypt from 12-13 December 2018. The AMOT is a meeting African Union member states’ ministers responsible for trade. The AU is in the process of bringing 55 African countries into a single free trade area through the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA negotiations are conducted in two phases: Phase I covers trade in goods and trade in services; Phase II will cover investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights. Outstanding issues of Phase I such as tariff schedules, rules of origin, and specifics on trade in services are yet to be completed. The AfCFTA must first be ratified by 22 states for it to enter into force. As of 15 January 2019, 18 AU member states have ratified the AfCFTA.

At the 7th AMOT meeting, the ministers deliberated on the outstanding issues of the AfCFTA including, inter alia, ‘the roadmap for finalisation of outstanding work on AfCFTA negotiations; designation of percentages for sensitive products and exclusion lists, anti-concentration clause and double qualification… rules of origin; trade remedies’.[1] At the end of the meeting, the ministers reached consensus on the completion of the AfCFTA outstanding issues. They agreed on the methodology/mechanisms and time-frame for liberalising goods on the African continent.

AU member states have agreed to eliminate 90 percent of their tariffs on trade in goods. In June 2017, AMOT agreed that the remaining 10 percent be divided between sensitive and excluded products: sensitive products are to be given a longer liberalisation time-frame, while excluded products are exempt from liberalisation.[2] At the 7th AMOT meeting, the ministers agreed that:

products to be excluded from liberalisation will represent no more than 3 percent of tariff lines accounting for no more than 10 percent of the value of imports from other African countries (based on the average of a 3-year reference period to be determined – either 2014-2016 or 2015-2017). Sensitive products will be liberalised over 10 years for developing countries and 13 for the least developing countries (LDCs). A transitional period of 5 years or less may be used for countries which require so before the start of liberalisation of sensitive products’.[3]

Countries are expected to submit for adoption by January 2020 their negotiated market access offers.

With regards to trade in services modalities, the AMOT meeting considered and endorsed the Guidelines for development of Schedules of Specific Commitments and Regulatory Frameworks for Trade in Services. The minimum negotiating threshold was referred to the AfCFTA Negotiating Forum and Specialised Technical Officer meeting for further discussion.[4] Negotiated market offers are expected to be submitted for adoption by January 2020,[5] for the 5 priority services sectors – transport, communications, financial, tourism and business services.

The AMOT has also agreed to give a 6-month extension for the rules of origin (RoO) negotiations, and negotiators are expected to submit their agreed package by June 2019.[6] The modalities for the RoO adopted in the AfCFTA include value addition, change of tariff heading, and product specific or list rules.[7]

In addition, AMOT noted some inconsistencies in the legally scrubbed Annex 9 (Trade Remedies) to the Protocol on Trade in Goods. ‘They requested the Committee of Senior Trade Officials to direct the Negotiating Forum (NF) and the Technical Working Group (TWG) to report back on a way forward by the next session. To this end, request was made for the TWG on trade remedies to meet in March 2019.’[8]

For Phase II negotiations, AMOT requested the NF to develop terms of reference of the TWGs on intellectual property rights, competition policy, and investment by April 2019.[9] AMOT further requested the AU Commission and technical partners to conduct situational analysis studies on Phase II issues by April 2019.[10] AMOT further directed the NF to complete Phase II negotiations by June 2020.

AMOT also adopted a Declaration on the recent developments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).[11]

The outcomes of the 7th AMOT meeting shall be submitted to, and considered by, the AU Heads of State and Government at the 32nd Ordinary Session to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February 2019.


[1] See https://www.tralac.org/news/article/13824-african-union-ministers-of-trade-conclusively-reach-consensus-on-all-outstanding-issues-on-afcfta-modalities-for-tariff-liberalization.html

[2] See https://www.tralac.org/news/article/13138-african-continental-free-trade-area-towards-the-finalization-of-modalities-on-goods-toolkit.html

[3] See https://www.tralac.org/news/article/13824-african-union-ministers-of-trade-conclusively-reach-consensus-on-all-outstanding-issues-on-afcfta-modalities-for-tariff-liberalization.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See https://www.tralac.org/blog/article/13119-afcfta-negotiations-after-kigali-keeping-an-eye-on-the-end-game.html

[8] See https://www.tralac.org/news/article/13824-african-union-ministers-of-trade-conclusively-reach-consensus-on-all-outstanding-issues-on-afcfta-modalities-for-tariff-liberalization.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] See https://www.tralac.org/documents/resources/external-relations/wto/2587-african-group-declaration-on-wto-issues-8-january-2019.html

About the Author(s)

Talkmore Chidede

Talkmore Chidede

Talkmore Chidede holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree (Cum Laude) by research in international investment law and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the Nelson R. Mandela School of Law, University of Fort Hare. He is a doctoral candidate in investment law at the University of the Western Cape. His research interests include investment law, international trade law, regional economic integration and international commercial arbitration.

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