Two hundred African delegates discuss the technical elements of the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement
Two hundred delegates from African countries are discussing the technical elements of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement from 6 to 10 February 2017, and these technical elements are linked to each of the seven Areas studied, according to the Chief Technical Advisor of the ZLEC, Prudence Sebahizi.
“Delegates will then make recommendations to the Negotiating Forum that will hold its meeting in Addis Ababa at the end of February 2017. The Negotiating Forum is made up of one representative per African country, Chief negotiator and his deputy by country,” he said.
He stressed that a total of seven working sessions corresponding to seven areas of discussion will be held in Kigali in two phases: the first session includes four technical areas, organized from 6 to 10 February 2017. The second session includes three technical areas which will be held from 13 to 17 February 2017.
The first session comprises four areas which are: 1. Trade in Services; 2. Rules of Origin; 3. Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS); 4. Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs).
While the second session integrates three areas that are: 5. Commercial Corrective Measures; 6. Customs Procedures and Facilitation of Trade Exchanges; 7. Legal and Institutional Affairs.
Each session brings together two hundred delegates. But by the end of the first session a hundred delegates will return to their respective countries and they will be replaced by a hundred others who will join the hundred or so delegates who will participate fully in both sessions.
“On the whole, this first session of the Technical Groups on the ZLEC constitutes the Negotiating Forum, that is to say the Negotiating Groups designated by the Member States to conclude Agreements on the ZLEC. The objective of these negotiations is to arrive at the Common Market for all the countries of Africa. This Common Market is similar to that of the Community of East African States (EAC), considered as a Regional Economic Community (REC),” Sebahizi continued.
Africa has a total of five RECs. The aim will be to harmonize the standards for all RECs that are at different levels of integration between the common market and the ZLEC.
In other words, the REC of the Community of East African States (EAC) is advanced and has already signed the Common Market Agreement, which means the free movement of goods and services and factors Production, such as human resources, capital and labor.
While the other continental RECs are at a lower level, that of the ZECA, which means a signed agreement restricting itself only to the movement of goods and services.
According to the Chief Technical Advisor of the ZLEC, the texts governing the African Common Market will have to be finalized before the end of 2017, as recommended by the African Heads of State.
“Our texts on the African Common Market should be ready for signature at the end of 2017. We can organize an extraordinary summit on this issue of signature to accelerate the integration of the continent,” said Sebahizi.
He recalled the six successive stages of integration of the African Continent, to have: To constitute RECs; Establishing RECs; Create a Continental Customs Union in 2019; Creating an African common market in 2022; Create a Monetary Union and an African Economic Community as a final step in 2018.
This article has been translated from the original in French: Deux cents délégués africains discutent sur les éléments techniques de l’Accord sur la Zone de Libre Echange Continentale