Trade Briefs

Where does the African Continental Free Trade Area stand and what is its “Operational Phase” about?

Where does the African Continental Free Trade Area stand and what is its “Operational Phase” about?

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30 Aug 2019

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

The standard procedure for concluding multilateral (as opposed to bilateral) International Agreements is that the texts are negotiated, adopted, signed and ratified by the required number of participating States before they will enter into force. This procedure applies to the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) too. Article 22 provides that this Agreement shall be adopted by the Assembly of the African Union (AU) and shall be open for signature and ratification or accession by the AU Member States, in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures.

The AfCFTA Agreement has been in force since 30 May 2019, having met the 22 ratifications required in Article 23 of the Agreement for entry into force. As at end-July 2019, it has been ratified by 27 AU Member States. The operational phase of the African Internal Market was launched at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU held on 7 July 2019 in Niamey, Niger. However, the final schedules of Tariff Concessions and Rules of Origin for the AfCFTA must still be concluded. Dismantling of tariffs must then start not later than 1 July 2020, to allow the commencement of trading within the AfCFTA Regime.

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