Trade Briefs

How the CFTA could advance the Framework of the Abuja Treaty

How the CFTA could advance the Framework of the Abuja Treaty

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10 Sep 2015

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus

We believe the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations offer a promising opportunity for concluding an agreement to address trade related challenges in Africa; and to do so a meaningful manner. Whether this will happen depends on how these negotiations are conceptualized and undertaken. If the traditional trade in goods agenda is (again) the dominant theme (with the aim to form a continental customs union in terms of the Abuja Treaty, as some commentators are proposing) it will be an opportunity lost.

The aim of the CFTA negotiations is to bring about, as far as the Abuja Treaty is concerned, the following:

Within the broader framework of the Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community, the objective of launching negotiations for the CFTA is to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union.

What is the “broader framework of the Abuja Treaty”? The AEC Treaty (the Abuja Treaty) came into force in May 1994. Its aims are broader than trade and economic integration and include social and cultural development, cooperation in all aspects of human activity with a view to raising the standard of life of Africa’s people, maintaining economic stability, and establishing a close and peaceful relationship between the Member States.

The implementation of the Abuja Treaty is a process which has to be undertaken in six stages over 34 years, to be completed by 2028. In the meantime the crucial assignment of boosting intra-African trade and forming an inclusive, comprehensive and modern continental trade arrangement has become too urgent to neglect. The CFTA cannot wait till all RECs have become CUs. Some of them (e.g. SADC) have in any case moved that objective to the backburner of their agendas. There are good reasons why they have done so.

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