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Senior Officials consider the draft technical documents for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations

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Senior Officials consider the draft technical documents for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations

Senior Officials consider the draft technical documents for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations
Photo credit: AU

The three-day Senior Officials’ Meeting segment of the African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT), commenced on Monday at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The objective is to consider the preparatory draft documents amended by the Experts and prepare for the Ministers’ meeting scheduled for 14-15 May 2015. The meeting is attended by the Member States, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and regional Private Sector organizations.

The Senior Officials’ meeting is the last Senior African trade officials before the launch of the CFTA negotiations in South Africa in June.

In her opening remarks, the Director for Trade and Industry, Mrs. Treasure Maphanga, pointed out, amongst others, that the CFTA will contribute significantly to the realization of the vision of creating a single economic space on the African continent as envisaged under the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty. “African economies are on a growth path and the services sector is contributing significantly in this regard. The inclusion of trade in services in the scope of the CFTA reflects the recognition by Member States of the importance of trade in services in boosting intra African trade”, she mentioned. Recalling other advantages of the implementation of the CFTA, Mrs. Maphanga indicated that the establishment of the CFTA will significantly accelerate growth of Intra-African trade and allow the people of Africa 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 Senior Officials 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 emphasized. She concluded by thanking Member States for their commitment and their goodwill to make progress on the regional integration agenda. She also thanked development partners for their continued support.

Dr. David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), recalled some of UNECA’s researches on the CFTA that show the positive expectations if the initiative is implemented by 2017 as scheduled. “UNECA’s research has shown that the CFTA combined with efforts to reduce non-tariff barriers, could double intra-African trade within ten years, in so doing could also boost the continent’s industrialization, given the higher value added content of Intra-African trade. It will also substantially add to the continent’s GDP”, he revealed. He further indicated that in addition to the studies conducted, UNECA has reflected on the progress that has been made towards trade liberalization in the various RECs and how to build upon what has been achieved to support the CFTA negotiations.

The Chair of the Senior Officials’ meeting, Mrs. Nafisa Mohamed Ahmed, Ag. Undersecretary of Trade of Sudan, welcomed the delegations to the AU Headquarters and thanked the Department of Trade and Industry for the excellent organization of the meeting. She observed that the implementation of the CFTA will make goods and services more competitive and underscored that the CFTA will enhance production and investment and improve people’s lives in Africa. She concluded by requesting all participants to observe a minute of silence in solidarity with the families and the victims of the Mediterranean sea migrant shipwrecks trying to cross into Europe and ISIS attacks in Libya.

The current Senior Officials’ meeting will be followed by a Ministerial meeting from 14-15 May 2015. A press briefing will be held by H. E. Mrs. Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner for Trade and Industry on the 14 May 2015, after the opening session.

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