Livingstone — The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that will see the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) blocs merge into one free trading bloc is in steady progress though countries have not yet ratified the treaty according to Francis Mangeni, the Director of Trade and Customs at the COMESA secretariat.
Mangeni said that Twenty four Member States have signed the Declaration with only Libya and Eritrea, who are members of COMESA yet to sign.
"The TFTA Agreement has been signed by 20 of the 26 member countries, namely Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, State of Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"The Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Madagascar signed the TFTA Agreement on 7 July and 13 July 2017, respectively. The Agreement requires 14 ratifications to enter into force. So far, no country has ratified it," said Mangeni.
He said the negotiations for Tripartite Free Trade Area were concluded and the agreements signed on 10 June 2015. He said 20 countries have so far signed to join the tripartite.
Mangeni said the COMESA member states were also mulling the creation of a business passport.
"All annexes on key areas (customs, TF, standards, NTBs) have been adopted, interim arrangements for rules of origin, trade remedies and tariff offers were agreed and the Tripartite Free Trade Area can be ratified and implemented on the basis of variable geometry - willing countries can go ahead," said Mangeni in Livingstone.
The aim of the Tripartite is to provide a single trade regime covering the COMESA-EAC-SADC region, to facilitate trade and investments.
He said regulations have been adopted with the first round of negotiations completed. According to Mangeni, eleven member states have submitted schedules of specific commitments. The first round negotiations covered transport, communication, financial and tourism services while the second will cover business, energy and construction services.
He said a number of trade facilitation programs are in operation in a number of member states like NTB system, SAD/CD, CMR, ASYCUDA in all member states while STR, Fifth Freedom, North-South Corridor, OSBP, RCTG, Yellow Card are in some member states.
He said there is need to upscale and replicate these programs.