WTO Membership and AfCFTA Implementation in Deepening Economic Integration in Africa

13 February 2020

Addis Ababa — The Third Regional Dialogue on WTO Accessions for Africa is being held from 12 to 14 February 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focusing on "Deepening Economic Integration in Africa through WTO Membership and AfCFTA Implementation". The Dialogue, hosted by the Government of Ethiopia, is organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat, in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Bank.

The Dialogue is taking place at an opportune moment when the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has entered into force; 44 African countries are members of the WTO, and nine of the 22 countries engaged in the highly demanding WTO accession negotiations are from Africa. Many of these acceding African countries are expected to intensify their engagement at the level of their respective Accession Working Parties in 2020. Against this background, Mr. Alan Wolff, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, underlined that one critical issue facing trade negotiators is how to ensure coherence in the pursuit of their countries' domestic economic reform agenda, anchored on WTO rules and principles while, in parallel, deepening regional integration efforts through AfCFTA implementation.

In a similar vein, Ambassador Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, in his opening remarks said: "Africa is contributing positively to the multilateral system as African countries are acceding to the WTO in earnest. Also, AfCFTA is being formed at a time when protectionism and retaliatory trade measures are on the rise."

On his part, Mr. Stephen Karingi, Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of ECA, reflected on what he called "the contrasting narratives on the governance of international trade" coming out of Africa, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, and observed that despite the waning confidence in rules-based multilateral diplomacy, Africa is "affirming and reaffirming its confidence in a rules-based system of economic liberalization as a tool for inclusive and people-centered development." Instead of turning against the multilateral trading system, the Dialogue served as an opportunity for African countries to explore the synergies between the AfCFTA and the WTO regimes so as to ensure those countries pursuing accession to the WTO and participation in the AfCFTA approach these twin processes in a coordinated and mutually-reinforcing manner.

The Dialogue comprised of government representatives from seven of the nine acceding African countries - Algeria, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. It also brought together representatives from the private sector, civil society, independent experts, academia, international organizations and development partners.

For more information Contact

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

PO Box 3001

Addis Ababa

Ethiopia

Tel: +251 11 551 5826

E-mail: eca-info@un.org

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