African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT) will meet in Niamey, Niger, on 1 and 2 December in a bid to finalize negotiations on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by the end of 2017, as directed by the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in June 2015.
David Luke who coordinates the African Trade Policy Centre at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said that the month of November was characterized by a series of meetings by the CFTA Technical Working Groups, the CFTA Negotiating Forum, and the African Union Senior Trade Officials.
“The objective of these meetings is to conclude the outstanding issues of the Modalities for Tariff Liberalization that were adopted at the 3rd Meeting of the AU Ministers of Trade in June 2017; and to consider the draft Texts of the CFTA Agreement, its Protocols and its Annexes and Appendices,” added Mr. Luke.
The ECA official expressed optimism about the December deadline for the establishment of the CFTA, stating “Given the momentum behind the negotiations thus far, we are confident that there will be the essential substance of an agreement to come out of the ministerial meeting in Niamey."
He cautioned, however, that some technical work will be needed during the first half of 2018 to finalize tariff schedules and rules of origin arrangements.
Mr. Luke added that "ECA is advocating for implementation of the agreement to begin early in 2018 on the basis of the level of ambition of tariff liberalization that has been agreed and with interim rules of origin pending the finalization of the outstanding technical issues."
The main objective of the CFTA negotiations is to achieve a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union.
The trade ministers are expected to consider the Report of the 4th meeting of the Senior Trade Officials, which took place on 27 - 29 November in Niamey; and approve the Text of the Agreement establishing the CFTA, Protocols on Trade in Goods and Services and any other Annexes deemed as early harvests.
The meeting is organized by the African Union Commission’s Department of Trade and Industry. (UNECA)