Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Cape to Cairo – Making the Tripartite Free Trade Area work


Cape to Cairo – Making the Tripartite Free Trade Area work

Cape to Cairo – Making the Tripartite Free Trade Area work

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The Heads of State and Government of the 26 member states of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed in October 2008 to establish a grand Free Trade Area (FTA) which is now referred to as the Tripartite FTA (T-FTA). This integration initiative has in the (almost) three years since this political decision, followed a course rather different from other regional integration initiatives in Africa.

Since October 2008 various task teams of technical experts have been engaged in analytical work and have prepared a Draft Agreement and 14 annexes, dealing with issues, in addition to tariff liberalisation, ranging from Rules of Origin (RoO) to the Movement of Business Persons and Dispute Resolution. The most recent iteration of this technical process has produced drafts of these instruments, dated December 2010. These drafts provide points of reference in many of the chapters of this book.

Negotiations, however, were only officially launched at a Summit, held in South Africa, in June 2011. It is, therefore, very important to recognise that the Tripartite FTA does not exist yet and substantive negotiations have not yet begun. The Draft Agreement and the 14 annexes lack official status, yet it is a useful exercise to review these draft instruments and the emerging negotiations process, as member states deliberate negotiating guidelines, and soon start substantive negotiations.

The Trade Law Centre (tralac) has already published a book, Cape to Cairo – An Assessment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, on specific issues related to the Tripartite FTA (INSERT LINK) to coincide with the Summit in June 2011. The book focuses on economic analysis, and a broadly focused assessment of the impact of the T-FTA, with particular focus on agriculture and agri-business development.

This second book delves more deeply into a range of issues relevant to a discussion about what will make the T-FTA work. At this early stage of the process, before negotiations begin in earnest, there are important issues to consider that could contribute to making the T-FTA a successful integration arrangement. Thus far, Africa's integration record is marked by grand schemes, weak legal and institutional foundations for a rules-based dispensation of regional integration, and an implementation record that demonstrates very little serious commitment. Can the T-FTA be different?

The answer to this question lies not in the draft instruments, but the outcome of the political economy process that will begin as member states negotiate the legal instruments of the T-FTA. However, the analysis in this book can provide an opportunity to reflect on what exists already in terms of regional integration in East and Southern Africa, and what lessons can be learned from this experience. Specific issues covered include sugar trade, RoO, trade in services, movement of business persons, dispute settlement and trade remedies and safeguards, as well as World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on regional trade agreements and implications for the T-FTA.

© 2013 Trade Law Centre, the Danish International Development Assistance and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

Publication of this book was made possible by the support of the Trade Law Centre (tralac), the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the view of any of these institutions.

Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce the material contained in these publications for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. Please contact us to obtain authorisation for reproducing this material.


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