African Trade Experts meet to finalize the draft documents prior to the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations
The three-day Experts’ Meeting segment of the African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT) opened on Friday at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The objective is to finalize preparatory draft documents for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations scheduled for June during the 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa
The meeting is attended by the Member States, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Department for International Development (DFID), the Pan African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) and regional Private Sector organizations.
During the Meeting, Experts will consider a number of essential technical documents that will enable the Assembly to launch the CFTA negotiations in June 2015 as scheduled. These documents are as follows: Draft Objectives and Guiding principles for the negotiations of the CFTA, the Draft Terms of Reference of the CFTA Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) and the Draft Roadmap and schedule for the CFTA Negotiations. In so doing the various studies commissioned by the 9th Conference of Ministers of Trade (CAMOT-9) held in December 2014 in Addis Ababa, to be presented during this meeting, will enable the Experts to recommend the best options towards the establishment of the CFTA to the Senior officials.
In her opening statement, the Director for Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission, Mrs. Treasure Maphanga, recalled the advantages of a CFTA built on best practices of the continent and pointed out to the Experts that the CFTA is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063. “The establishment of the CFTA will significantly accelerate growth of Intra-African trade and allow us to use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and sustainable development and fight against poverty and underdevelopment in the continent. It is our responsibility as trade experts to facilitate a process that will expand trade and investment opportunities for African businesses, farmers, workers and the peoples of Africa in general and provide win-win outcomes for partnerships with foreign investors” she said.
The Director further insisted: “Through the CFTA, we can enhance trade liberalization and facilitation issues at the borders, improve the doing business environment ‘behind the border’and facilitate harmonization of policies ‘across the border’”. She also explained that the studies prepared for this meeting would provide useful insights in finalizing the key documents for the launch of the CFTA negotiations. She thanked Member States for their commitment and their goodwill to make progress on the regional integration agenda and thanked development partners for their continued support. Mrs. Maphanga finally, urged the meeting to design a CFTA that promotes the development of regional value chains and that is a lever in developing productive capacity in Africa.
The Chair of the Experts’ meeting, Mr. Mohammed Elmutaz Sir Elkhatim Ismaiel, welcomed the delegations to the AU Headquarters and thanked them for the honour bestowed upon him to preside over the meeting on behalf of the Republic of Sudan and East Africa. He requested all participants to observe a minute of silence solidarity for the victims in the Mediterranean seas and of ISIS attacks in Libya. He concluded by urging the meeting to examine in-depth the draft documents submitted so as to facilitate the work of the Senior Officials and Ministers.
The Experts’ meeting will be followed by a Senior Officials meeting from 11-13 May 2015 and a Ministerial meeting from 14-15 May 2015