Africa making progress towards free trade zone, official says

2017-07-17 13:35:25 GMT2017-07-17 21:35:25(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NAIROBI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Africa is making progress towards the establishment of a trade zone by Oct. 30 that will cover approximately half of the continent's member states.

The Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Director of Trade and Customs, Francis Mangeni, said in a commentary published in the Star Newspaper on Monday that so far 19 of the 26 countries involved have signed the agreement.

"Three outstanding annexes had meant the tripartite agreement was not complete and this was advanced by some countries as the reason they could not sign or ratify the agreement. However their adoption represented a milestone in the negotiation, as it removed the last obstacle to signing and ratifying the agreement," Mangeni said.

The tripartite free trade area will be formed by the merger of the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).

The free trade zone provides for 100 percent product coverage with a tariff elimination period of 5-8 years but with 60-85 percent of tariff lines to be liberalized upon entry of the agreement.

During the launch of the tripartite free trade zone on June 2015, the heads of state set a time frame of 12 months for finalizing tariff negotiations.

This deadline was missed and in October 2016, the ministers set a new time frame of April 2017, which was also missed.

"The time frame of Oct. 30 is expected to be different because of the apparent existential risk the tripartite faces from the Continental Free Trade Area expected to be launched by the end of 2017," said Mangeni, who is also a Member of the Tripartite Negotiation Team.

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