Signed Agreement Establishing a Tripartite Free Trade Area Among COMESA, the EAC and SADC
The Heads of State and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) met on 10 June, 2015 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt at the Third Tripartite Summit to officially launch the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
Twenty four Member/Partner States have signed the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration launching the TFTA; only Libya and Eritrea have not signed. The TFTA Agreement has been signed by the following 16 member countries: Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Documents from the Third Tripartite Summit and the text of the final TFTA Agreement are available in the four official languages – English, Arabic, French and Portuguese – here.
Agreement Establishing a Tripartite Free Trade Area Among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community*
WE, the Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Partner States of the East African Community, and the Member States of the Southern African Development Community, hereinafter referred to as “Tripartite Member/Partner States”:
RECALLING AND AFFIRMING the strong and indissoluble bonds of history, freedom, liberation struggles, friendship, solidarity, commerce, trade, shared natural resources, and culture among the people and Governments of the Member/Partner States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community;
RECOGNISING the Kampala Communiqué of the Tripartite Summit of 22 October 2008 under which the Heads of State and Government representing the three regional economic communities agreed, inter alia, to establish a single Customs Union beginning with a Free Trade Area;
FURTHER RECOGNISING the Declaration Launching the Negotiations for the Establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area of Johannesburg, South Africa, 12 June 2011;
RECALLING the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding signed on 19 January, 2011 and its provisions on the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area;
COMMITED to championing and expediting the continental integration process under the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community and the Constitutive Act of the African Union through regional initiatives;
COGNISANT of the provisions establishing free trade areas in the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa Treaty, Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Trade;
DETERMINED to build upon the success and best practices achieved in trade liberalisation within the three Regional Economic Communities;
COMMITTED to resolving the challenges of overlapping memberships of the Tripartite Member/Partner States to the three Regional Economic Communities;
CONSIDERING that trade in goods and services, infrastructure, cross-border investment, industrial development and movement of business persons should be major areas of co-operation;
DETERMINED to take the necessary measures for reducing the cost of doing business and creating a conducive environment for private sector development;
MINDFUL of the important role of micro, small and medium enterprises in job creation and income generation for the majority of the people in the Tripartite Member/Partner States;
RECOGNISING the significant contribution of trade in goods and services to national incomes of the Member/Partner States;
DETERMINED to progressively liberalise trade in goods and services, promote industrial development, facilitate movement of business persons, support the strengthening of infrastructure, promote competitiveness, build the capacity of micro, small and medium scale enterprises, and contribute to the deepening of integration in the Tripartite Member/Partner States;
RECOGNISING that the development of trade and investment is essential to the economic integration of the Region and will create new opportunities for a dynamic business sector;
CONVINCED that a framework of trade co-operation among Tripartite Member/Partner States based on equality, fair competition and mutual benefit will contribute to the creation of a viable development community;
MINDFUL of the different levels of economic development and geographic specificities of the Tripartite Member/Partner States and the need to share equitably the benefits of regional economic integration;
COMMITED to improving the competitiveness of Tripartite Member/Partner States at enterprise, industrial and regional levels so as to fully derive benefits from regional and global trade opportunities;
RECOGNISING the progress achieved in the elimination of import duties and other trade barriers within the three regional economic communities;
RECOGNISING the initiatives undertaken by the regional economic communities in establishing themselves as single investment areas and building on this progress; and
RECOGNISING our international obligations under the existing agreements;
HEREBY AGREE as follows:
INTERPRETATION, ESTABLISHMENT, OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES
Establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area
A Free Trade Area among the Member/Partner States of COMESA, EAC and SADC is hereby established.
Scope and Coverage
This Agreement shall, without derogating from the purpose already outlined herein comprise of:
a) Trade in goods;
b) Trade in services; and
c) Other trade-related matters.
The general objectives of the Tripartite Free Trade Area shall be to:
a) promote economic and social development of the Region;
b) create a large single market with free movement of goods and services to promote intra-regional trade;
c) enhance the regional and continental integration processes; and
d) build a strong Tripartite Free Trade Area for the benefit of the people of the Region.
For purposes of fulfilling and realising the objectives set out in Article 4 of this Agreement, Tripartite Member/Partner States shall:
a) progressively eliminate tariffs and Non-Tariff Barriers to trade in goods;
b) liberalise trade in services;
c) cooperate on customs matters and implementation of trade facilitation measures;
d) establish and promote cooperation in all trade-related areas among Tripartite Member/Partner States; and
e) establish and maintain an institutional framework for implementation and administration of the Tripartite Free Trade Area.
LIBERALISATION OF TRADE IN GOODS
Elimination of Import Duties
Tripartite Member/Partner States shall not impose new import duties or charges of equivalent effect except as provided for under this Agreement.
The provisions of paragraph 1 shall not apply to goods that are not subject to liberalisation.
The Tripartite Member/Partner States shall progressively eliminate import duties in accordance with schedules contained in Annex I on Elimination of Import Duties.
Tripartite Member/Partner States shall eliminate all existing Non-Tariff-Barriers to trade with each other and shall not impose any new ones in line with Annex III on Non-Tariff Barriers.
Tripartite Member/Partner States recognise the existing reporting, monitoring and elimination mechanisms on Non-Tariff-Barriers established by the three RECs and undertake to harmonise them into a single mechanism as provided for in Annex III.
Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions
Tripartite Member/Partner States shall not impose quantitative restrictions on imports or exports in trade with other Tripartite Member/Partner States except as otherwise provided for in Article XI.2 of GATT1994, the WTO Agreement on Safeguards and Articles 17 and 18 and Annex II on Trade Remedies of this Agreement.
Rules of Origin
Goods shall be eligible for preferential treatment under this Agreement if they are originating goods in any of the Tripartite Member/Partner States in accordance with the criteria and conditions set out in Annex 4 on Rules of Origin.
CUSTOMS COOPERATION AND TRADE FACILITATION
Tripartite Member/Partner States shall take appropriate measures including arrangements regarding customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance to ensure that the provisions of this Agreement are effectively applied in accordance with Annex 5 on Customs Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance.
Tripartite Member/Partner States agree to design and standardise their trade and customs documentation and information in accordance with internationally accepted standards, taking into account the use of electronic data processing systems.
Tripartite Member/Partner States shall ensure an efficient and effective application of this Article in accordance with Annex VI on Trade Facilitation.
Tripartite Member/Partner States undertake to initiate trade facilitation programmes in accordance with Annex VI on Trade Facilitation aimed at:
a) reducing the cost of processing documents and volume of paper work required in respect of trade among Tripartite Member/Partner States;
b) ensuring that the nature and volume of information required in respect of trade within the Tripartite Free Trade Area does not adversely affect the economic development of, or trade among, the Tripartite Member/Partner States;
c) adopting common standards of trade procedures within the Tripartite Free Trade Area where international requirements do not suit the conditions prevailing among Tripartite Member/Partner States;
d) ensuring adequate coordination between trade and transport facilitation within the Tripartite Free Trade Area;
e) keeping under review procedures adopted in international trade and transport with a view to simplifying and adopting them;
f) collecting and disseminating information on international development regarding trade facilitation;
g) promoting the development and adoption of common solutions to problems in trade facilitation instruments;
h) initiating and promoting the establishment of joint programmes, for the training of personnel engaged in trade facilitation; and
i) establishing and promoting one-stop border posts.
Tripartite Member/Partner States agree to facilitate the movement of goods and means of transport in transit to other Tripartite Member/Partner States in accordance with Annex VII on Transit Trade and Transit Facilitation.
* Only extracts from the Agreement are reproduced here.