Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies, on Monday hosted the seventh Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee (TSMC), where tariff reduction negotiations were thrashed out.
“The objective of the meeting of Tripartite Ministers was to consider progress made thus far in the tariff reduction negotiations and rules of origin. The Ministers agreed on the urgency to conclude outstanding issues – under Phase 1 of the negotiations – to facilitate the implementation of the TFTA [Tripartite Free Trade Area] Agreement,” said the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).
Held in Cape Town, Monday’s meeting saw the Ministers underscore the importance of the ratification of the TFTA Agreement. The Ministers also agreed that member states should prioritise the ratification process and aim to conclude by April 2019.
The tripartite comprises three economic blocks, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
South Africa reported to the meeting that the process of ratifying the TFTA has been initiated in Parliament.
The TFTA was launched in June 2015 in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, by the Heads of State and government of the three regional economic communities of COMESA, EAC and SADC.
To date, the TFTA Agreement has been signed by 22 countries and ratified by three countries, namely Kenya, Uganda and Egypt.
With regard to Phase 2 issues (trade in services, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross-border investment), the Ministers agreed to proceed with the negotiations on these under the TFTA.
On the movement of business persons, the Ministers endorsed the report of the Dedicated Meeting of Chiefs of Immigration and noted that the Tripartite Agreement on Movement of Business Persons had been finalised.
In addition, the Tripartite Ministers received a progress report on the work being done in the industrial development and infrastructure pillars.
Davies emphasised the importance of rules of origin that support industrial development in the tripartite region
Access to new markets
The Tripartite Free Trade Area is anchored on the development integration approach that is based on three pillars: market integration, infrastructure development, and industrial development.
The dti said the TFTA is important for South Africa, as it will grant South Africa access to new and dynamic markets, whose combined gross domestic product is US$1.2 trillion.
It will also allow access to a combined population of approximately 626 million people, just over half the total African population and economy.
Through the TFTA, South Africa will build on its current share of the African market and have access to a larger, more integrated and growing regional market. This has the potential to stimulate industrial development, investment and job creation.
The meeting also provided an opportunity for another round of bilateral negotiations between the EAC and the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU). The meeting agreed on the roadmap towards the conclusion of the outstanding issues in the negotiations.