Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Redirecting the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement negotiations?

Trade Briefs

Redirecting the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement negotiations?

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At the first summit of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (T-FTA) states in October 2008 in Kampala, certain decisions were adopted on how to launch and undertake the process of establishing this new regional trade arrangement called the Tripartite FTA. There were promising ideas about an opportunity to achieve a new design for intra-Africa trade and there was a plan.

The objective at the time was, as stated in the adopted documentation, to establish one proper FTA with the typical legal and institutional features of such an arrangement. The draft agreement subsequently prepared for the purpose of directing the negotiations reflected this assumption; it proposed a single agreement for all 26 states involved by virtue of their membership of the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Somewhere along the way the focus has shifted rather dramatically. What is presently discussed will lead to a very different outcome. One of the original objectives, to address the problem of overlapping membership, will not be achieved. The opposite will come about. How did this happen and what will the implications be? Is it possible to revert back to the original plan?

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