Trade Briefs

What is the Continental FTA Mandate?

What is the Continental FTA Mandate?

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03 Sep 2015

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

The negotiations to establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will start by the middle of 2016. The indicative date for completing the first phase is the end of 2017. These negotiations will be about traditional matters as well as new approaches and challenges. It is important that the African Union (AU) and national officials responsible for the preparatory work grasp the essence of those novel aspects inherent in the CFTA initiative; which could make this arrangement a harbinger of true change. To replicate, once again, the old and trusted trade in goods agenda would be to miss a promising opportunity. The CFTA negotiations call for a bolder vision; it has the mandate to do so.

The CFTA negotiations shall cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy, and shall be conducted in two phases. The first phase shall cover trade in goods and trade in services; for which there shall be two separate legal instruments. The second phase has to produce agreements on the remaining areas.

This is not simply a wish list; and in any case not an exhaustive one. It does recognise that new challenges have to be addressed and that there should be a ‘comprehensive’ new African trade deal. How are these negotiations to be conducted?

This Trade Brief takes a look at what has been agreed as the framework and guidelines for the CFTA negotiations, and unpacks some of the implications. It argues that the opportunity now exists to make a novel and more proper contribution to continental trade, global integration, and economic development plans generally. This requires recognition of the limitations inherent in past practices; which brought only partial results. They are not appropriate as the continental recipe for addressing contemporary needs.


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