tralac Regional Roundtable: Cape Town, 7 February 2017
tralac hosted a regional roundtable in Cape Town to consider global, African, and South African trade and trade-related developments of the past year and prospects for 2017.
This presented an opportunity for reflection and frank discussion about recent developments and future prospects; covering global matters as well as Africa’s trade and integration agenda, and South Africa’s trade and broader economic governance developments.
The past year has delivered a number of decisions (including Brexit in June, and the US election in November), that prompt us to think very carefully about future policy, geopolitical and development trajectories. China has, for example, been quick to step into the breach following the decision by President Trump to abandon the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) by promoting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. What do these developments mean for Africa?
Africa’s own trade and development agenda has moved ahead, admittedly, with difficulty, to its most ambitious integration initiative yet, the Continental Free Trade Area. Most regional economic communities are at best, ‘muddling along.’ The Southern African Customs Union (SACU), for example, remains in limbo, despite a Ministerial Retreat in June 2016, that was expected to deliver a plan for the customs union’s future development.
While this picture may well engender a measure of despair; there is incremental progress in specific areas, including trade facilitation, standards and quality assurance, and in some countries producers and traders are seeking solutions in domestic courts, that regional dispute resolution arrangements are not offering. How to build on what works, is a key challenge for Africa.