Getting the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations underway
Negotiators adopt Procedural Rules for the CFTA Trade Negotiating Forum
It is imperative that African negotiators remain on course as they push for a single market for goods and services, removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to intra-African trade and paving the way for increasing levels of investment in Africa, says African Trade Policy Center (ATPC) Coordinator, Mr. David Luke.
Speaking on 22 February 2016 at a capacity building workshop preceding the first meeting of the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) that laid the groundwork for upcoming substantive negotiations, Mr. Luke said negotiators should work together to position the continent to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities that will lead to transformational development.
“The level of ambition should be high, embracing the 54 member states with the aim of creating a 21st century single economic space for freer trade in goods and services,” he told participants.
The meeting was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with participants laying the foundation for the CFTA negotiations, which will be conducted until the CFTA’s 2017 deadline. Negotiations for the establishment of the CFTA were launched by Heads of State at their 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year. Participants were drawn from all the 54 member States, the African Union Commission.
AU Trade and Industry Commissioner, Fatima Haram Acyl, said it was critical for negotiators to deliver the CFTA by October 2017.
“The whole world is watching and waiting. Africa must prove to itself and the whole world that it can agree internally on solutions towards its own development,” she said.
“We can and will prevail. With your commitment, the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area can and will become a reality.”
Mr. Luke also led discussion on areas of consensus and disagreements so far in relation to the structure and content of a CFTA agreement. He further identified capacity and technical entry points where the ATPC can support negotiators.
The first CFTA-NF meeting kicked off with a two-day workshop for member states and regional economic communities with the main aim of strengthening the capacity of negotiators as they proceed with the trade negotiations. Resource persons at the workshop were drawn from the AUC, ATPC, UNCTAD and the UK Trade Advocacy Fund (TAF).
The main outcomes of the meeting were:
i) Adoption of the draft rules of procedure of the negotiating institutions, including the CFTA-NF, which will be provisionally applied pending endorsement by the Committee of Senior Officials and African Ministers for Trade;
ii) Election of a temporary bureau which is composed as follows:
1st Vice-chair: Senegal
2nd Vice-chair: Cameroon
3rd Vice-chair: Kenya
iii) Adoption of tentative dates for the 2nd meeting of the CFTA-NF, scheduled from the 18 to 22 April 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.