The Continental Task Force on the Continental Free Trade Area considers the drafts of technical documents in preparation for the launch of the negotiations
The 4th Meeting of the Continental Task Force (CTF), commenced on 10 April 2015 in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry of the Africa Union Commission in preparation for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations at the Summit of the Heads of State and Government to be held in June 2015. During the next two days, Experts from the African Union Commission, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic for Africa (UNECA), will consider all the preparatory issues and review essential technical documents that will enable the Assembly to launch the CFTA negotiations.
The CTF is established to ensure that the CFTA negotiations are conducted efficiently and within the agreed timelines. Its expected results are to finalize drafts of the various technical documents that will be submitted to the meetings of Trade Experts, Senior Trade Officials and the Meeting of African Union Ministers of Trade that will be held from 08 to 15 May, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In her opening remarks, the Director for the Department of Trade and Industry, Mme Treasure Thembisile Maphanga recalled the importance and the objectives of the meeting. “We have a responsibility as a Task Force to ensure that negotiations for the CFTA are on track and will take place as scheduled and in line with their road map and mandate through an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism,” she mentioned.
“We are gathered here today, primarily to update each other on the progress that has been made with regards to the directive we received from the last AU Ministers of Trade meeting which was to look at the overview on the progress of the various technical studies on technical issues which are related to the Continental Free Trade Area such as the Rules of Origins, Trade in Services and many other important issues,” she added. Mrs. Maphanga underscored the fact that the progress on the CFTA cannot be achieved without considering the capacity building at all the levels involved in the negotiations at the national, regional a level.
She encouraged the participants to share with the meeting their regional experience in order to enrich the documents and to further consolidate a strategy on preparing and conducting negotiations at the continental level.
The Chair of the meeting, Dr. Gbenga Greg. Obideyi, Director of Trade at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission, commended the African Union Commission on the progress made and success achieved so far on the Continental Free Trade Area programme. “This is a very important part of the institutional framework for the achievement of the Continental Free Trade Area and we need to come up with a very formidable strategy to ensure that the African Union Commission succeeds in this programme,” he said.
He urged the participants to be advocates for the success of the CFTA. “If the RECs are the building blocks for the CFTA, then we have to ensure that our political leaders take the leadership and ownership. As technocrats in the RECs, our role is to provide our leaders with the necessary support they need to make the CFTA a reality,” he insisted. To conclude his remarks, Dr. Gbenga wished the participants a very fruitful and successful meeting.