Trade Briefs

Does the AfCFTA enable Africa to speak with one Voice on Trade Issues?

Does the AfCFTA enable Africa to speak with one Voice on Trade Issues?

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25 Mar 2020

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

When sovereign states conclude international agreements to liberalize trade among them, they have to decide how far they want to take the process and whether they want to do things jointly. Essentially it is about how much trade policy space these states want to retain. This involves a discourse about governance, sovereignty, the compliance with jointly agreed rules, and the establishment of institutions to act on behalf of the collective. There will be historical, practical and political considerations about the benefits of gaining access to bigger markets, proximity, cementing historical ties or achieving solidarity, such as found in the African Union (AU).

This trade brief shows that claims about the existence of a collective voice capable to speak on behalf of the member states of a trade arrangement or being able to decide economic or monetary policies on their behalf, require a careful analysis of what the member states have formally agreed. What does the text of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provide for? The ceding of national sovereignty is a major step. It cannot be assumed to have been intended or implied; there should be clear language to that effect.

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