Experts Craft Continental Free Trade Area Draft Template

David Luke, the Coordinator for Africa Trade Policy - Regional Integration & Trade Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
23 July 2016

Nairobi — Experts from the African Union Commission (AUC), supported by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), met on the sidelines of UNCTAD14 to work on the draft text of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement.

The experts met in a four-day workshop, which was organized by the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the ECA, following the decision of the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali to negotiate the CFTA based on a template to provide room for wider consultation of stakeholders in national forums.

The template agreement will ensure efficiency in the CFTA negotiations, allowing the tight deadline of 2017 to be met. It will also provide a pan-African approach to the negotiations, differentiating this continental milestone from the "business as usual" approach and limited ambition.

In particular, it will facilitate the engagement of all African countries on a level playing field by taking the CFTA process to the capitals and stakeholders on the ground.

Among other technical materials, the workshop contributed to the creation of a skeleton text covering the areas of substantive content still being negotiated.

The work of the experts in Nairobi covered the modalities for negotiations for goods and services trade, the framework agreement and annexes on trade in goods, trade in services, institutional arrangements and dispute settlement.

The work of the legal experts and economists from the three organizations was overseen by the AUC Director of Trade and Industry, Ms. Treasure Mapahnga, AUC Legal Counsel and Director for Legal Affairs, Mr. Vincent Nmehielle, ATPC Coordinator, Mr. David Luke, and Professor Maleku Desta, Principal Regional Advisor at the ECA and also an international economic law expert.

The meeting in Nairobi followed a series of technical preparatory workshops co-organized by the AUC and ECA, which have brought together experts from key organizations, such as Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the African Development Bank as well as academia and others.

The CFTA, which is expected to be in place by October 2017, will bring together fifty-four African countries with a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US $3.4 trillion.

With the CFTA, African leaders aim to, among other things, create a single continental market for goods and services, free movement of business persons and investments and expand intra-African trade. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise levels.

The next meeting of the experts, which is expected to finalize the agreement template, will take place mid-September 2016.

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