What do we know about the African Continental Free Trade Area?
The African Continental Free Trade Area (FTA) is an ambitious project. It is also very necessary. It can make a major contribution, if properly implemented, to boost intra-African trade and to improve trade governance on the continent and within the 55 Member States of the African Union (AU). Trade with third parties also stand to benefit from developments such as better customs administration and improved trade facilitation.
Most of the legal instruments required for establishing the AfCFTA are done, but it will take time to conclude the outstanding negotiations for Phase I (tariff schedules, rules of origin and the conditions for trade in the five priority areas) and to adopt the Phase II Protocols on competition, intellectual property rights and investment. Recent decisions of the AU Assembly indicate that there will be a Phase III, when a Protocol on E-Commerce will be on the agenda.
This paper provides a picture of where the AfCFTA stands at the beginning of 2021. Certain outstanding matters are mentioned, and we offer ideas as to what may transpire under the AfCFTA regime. It should also be mentioned that on 5 December 2020 the AU Assembly adopted decisions to launch interim trade under the AfCFTA on 1 January 2021. We conclude the present discussion by asking whether there are signs of an additional development, that Accra, where the AfCFTA Secretariat is headquartered, may become the “trade diplomacy capital of Africa” and what that may mean.
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