CFTA Update – 4th Meeting of the AMOT, Niger
An intense four weeks of CFTA negotiations, including meetings of the Technical Working Groups, the Negotiating Forum, and the Senior Trade Officials, culminated in a pivotal meeting of the African Ministers of Trade (AMOT) on 1-2 December. Substantial progress was made, paving the way for legal scrubbing to begin on the CFTA text and an African Union Heads of State and Government Summit to adopt the CFTA Agreements in March.
The Agreements are essentially made up of three main parts (1) the Agreement Establishing the Continental Free Trade Area (2) the Protocol on Trade in Goods and (3) the Protocol on Trade in Services. It is envisaged that phase 2 of the CFTA will include further protocols on investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights.
All remaining brackets were removed on the Agreement Establishing the Continental Free Trade Area – this is the institutional framework with the objectives, principles and scope of the CFTA and horizontal issues such as the governance and institutional arrangements; details on entry into force, ratification, and amendment procedures; and a rendez-vous clause.
In particular, the AMOT agreed to an autonomous CFTA Secretariat headed by a Director-General / Secretary General. The AUC is to prepare technical note on this structure, detailing how it would work with the AU system and its budgetary and financing arrangements. The AMOT also agreed that an article on accession to the CFTA would be worked on and added to the Agreement.
The Protocol on Trade in Services was also agreed to and requires only legal scrubbing to ensure consistency with all parts of the Agreements. Services liberalization is to be targeted on nine priority sectors through a request and offer approach.
Several of the remaining sticking points on the Protocol on Trade in Goods were resolved. It was agreed that charges having an equivalent effect would be progressively eliminated on trade between African countries, pending a review of the implications for existing charges such as the ECOWAS community charge. Provisions were decided on for Special Economic Zones, Export Duties, Balance of Payments, and Infant Industries.
As anticipated, more work is needed principally on the rules of origin and application of the agreed modalities for the liberalization of trade in goods and in particular, how sensitive products and exclusions are to be treated.
During the next two months, work will continue on a small number of remaining issues in the annexes associated with the Protocol on Trade in Goods. These include finalizing guidelines on the treatment of infant industries and guidelines on trade remedies.
Legal scrubbing will begin in January for the Framework Agreement, the Protocol on Trade in Services and various sections of the Protocol on Trade in Goods. During this time work will proceed with the remaining issues in the Protocol on Trade in Goods with the aim of finalizing this by March, 2018.
The AMOT also received an update on the state-of-play in the Geneva discussions on MC11 from the AU Permanent Representative in Geneva and took note of the Geneva African Group paper on the issues.
This update has been supplied by David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, and Jamie Alexander Macleod, Trade Policy Fellow, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.