The COMESA Council of Ministers has urged Member States that signed COMESA –EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) to start the process of ratification and those that have not signed to do so.

The Tripartite FTA was launched on 10 June 2015 in Sharm El Shiekh, Egypt, setting the stage for the establishment of a single market for the 26 African countries in the Eastern and Southern African Region.

So far, 16 countries have signed the Tripartite FTA but are yet to ratify. At least 14 Tripartite Member/Partner States are required to ratify the Agreement to enter into force.

In its 35th meeting in Lusaka, Zambia the Council appreciated the progress made in the negotiations process that include finalizing the outstanding work in Phase I relating to Rules of Origin, elimination of import duties and trade remedies. In a press statement at the launch, Heads of State and Government directed the member/partner States to expedite the process towards the operationalization of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area by finalizing outstanding issues.

These included the Elimination of Import Duties, Trade Remedies and Rules of Origin, which will form part of the COMESA-EAC-SADC TFTA Agreement.

The Council encouraged Member States to ensure that the outstanding issues from Phase I negotiations are finalized within the 12 months from June 2015 as decided by the Tripartite Council of Ministers.

With regard to movement of business persons, the Council noted that although the negotiation process could not be finalized, it was on course on a separate but parallel track with the Phase II negotiations.

A draft tripartite Agreement has been developed and more work on this track was set to continue in phase II negotiations. The Council urged Member States to adopt more liberal provisions for the movement of business persons to facilitate trade and investment across borders.

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