By Nation Reporter
Zambia has become the 17th country to sign the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement.
Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe signed the TFTA Agreement on Friday 17 June 2016 in Lusaka.
“Zambia wishes to join the other countries that signed the agreement with a clear understanding that the establishment of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area will boost trade among the participating countries as a result of market expansion. Our country stands to benefit from this once the TFTA is fully operational,” Mrs Mwanakatwe said.
Out of the total projected aggregate net benefit for the TFTA of over US$ 3.3 billion per annum, Zambia would get US$149.9 million annually, without counting the expected new investment opportunities into the priority areas set in the diversification, value addition and innovation programs. This was according to trade experts at COMESA Secretariat.
Minister Mwanakatwe was hopeful that the next steps of concluding the negotiations on market access offers, rules of origin and ratification to effect implementation of the agreement would be finalised soon.
Zambia had been an active member State in the negotiations, providing strong leadership especially on key issues of rules of origin, customs, trade facilitation, and trade remedies.
COMESA Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Nagla El Hussainy commended Zambia for signing the TFTA and urged the remaining countries to do so.
“….I would like to congratulate and thank the Government of Zambia for this bold move and a re-statement of its commitment to the tripartite goal,
“ The signing we have witnessed today brings the number of signatories to well over 60% of the tripartite membership,” Ambassador Nagla said.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area was officially launched by Heads of State and Governments in Sharm El Sheikh Egypt on June 10, 2015.
Ambassador Nagla said that by all accounts, it had been expected that outstanding issues for negotiation would have been finalised by now.
The outstanding issues that were fundamental for a Free Trade Area were tariff liberalisation, rules of origin and the signing and ratification of the TFTA Agreement to make it operational. In some areas there had been progress, although still inadequate.
Once the TFTA was fully operational, it would usher in a single tripartite policy framework covering 26 countries in key regulatory areas affecting and promoting trade and investment.
Other countries that have signed the TFTA are Angola, Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.