GIS – October 28, 2014: The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) would be launched during the Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government in mid-December 2014, in Egypt, taking into account the fact that the majority of the Tripartite Member/Partner States have made ambitious tariff offers and were agreed on Rules of Origin to be applied in the interim whilst further work continues on product specific Rules of Origin.
This is the outcome of the Tripartite Sectoral Committee of Ministers meeting on trade held in Bujumbura, Burundi on 24 and 25 October 2014. Mauritius was represented at this meeting by the Director, International Trade Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Assad Bhuglah.
The meeting also agreed on the need for the expeditious formulation and implementation of a regional industrial programme in order to enable the Tripartite FTA realise inclusive and equitable growth.
The Tripartite FTA encompassing 26 Member/Partner States from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with a combined population of 625 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 1.2 trillion, will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58% of the continent’s GDP.
The Tripartite FTA, popularly known as the Grand Free Trade Area, will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and the launching pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area in 2017.
The Tripartite FTA will offer significant opportunities for business and investment within the Tripartite and will attract foreign direct investment into the Tripartite region. The business community, in particular, will benefit from an improved and harmonised trade regime which will reduce the cost of doing business as a result of the elimination of overlapping trade regimes due to multiple memberships.
The launching of the Tripartite Free Trade Area will be the first phase of implementing a developmental regional integration strategy that places high priority on infrastructure development, industrialisation and free movement of business persons.
First Tripartite Summit
The decision to establish the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA was taken by the first Tripartite Summit held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008.
Two major decisions were then taken in terms of moving towards a single market, namely: establishment of an enlarged Free Trade Area encompassing the member states of the COMESA-EAC-SADC with the ultimate goal of achieving a single Customs Union; and working towards a merger into a single bloc with the objective of fast-tracking the attainment of the African Economic Community.
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