African ministers pave way for AfCFTA operationalisation

container 789488 640African ministers of trade (AMOT) of the African Union met in Addis Ababa at the African Union Commission (AUC) headquarters from 7-8 June 2019

The meeting was preceded by the meeting of the 8th Senior Trade Officials (STO) and the 15th Negotiating Forums (NF).

The meeting was attended by African Union ministers and delegates from member states, officials of the AUC, ECA, AfreximBank, Regional Economic Communities, African Development Bank and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Addressing the ministers, Giovanie Biha, deputy executive secretary of the ECA, said, “AfCFTA legally entered into force but for it to deliver its transformative economic potential, the signatory countries – and the few countries that have not yet signed – must rapidly join and ratify the Agreement to ensure that the continent moves forward together as one entity.”

Noting the issues on the agenda of the ministers including the scheduling of tariff offers and finalisation of the Rules of Origin, she added, “Difficult decisions must yet to be made and compromises sought, as we transform the AFCFTA legal text into an operable instrument.”

Ambassador Albert Muchanga, commissioner for trade and industry of the AUC, stated, “The coming into existence of the AfCFTA is a continuation of a long journey that started with the establishment of Regional Economic Communities as building blocks of the African Economic Community. From here, Africa has to move to the next stages of the customs union, common market, monetary union and eventually African Economic Community.”

Ambassador Muchanga informed that the meeting that the process of selecting the country to hold the AfCFTA Secretariat has started and final decision on the hosting will be made at the Niamey Summit scheduled to take place on 7 July. The Commissioner further said that a Civil Society Forum and a Business Forum will take place on 3rd and 6th July respectively prior to the Summit.

The ministers of trade considered the report of the STO and adopted the following decisions:

· Customs unions to maintain the integrity of their Common External Tariff (CET) in accordance with the adopted modalities.

· Around 90 per cent of non-sensitive tariff lines to be communicated to the AUC ahead of the NF, STO and AMOT meeting which will take place in Niamey before the Summit. The remaining 10 per cent sensitive and excluded products will be tabled to the AU Summit in January 2020 for clearance.

· The agreed Rules of Origin, the Online Tariff Negotiation Portal, the African Trade Observatory, the Pan-African Payment and Settlement platform, and the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) mechanism will be tabled for clearance at the Niamey summit in July.

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