Facilitated by the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), market-access negotiations between the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and the East African Community (EAC) will conclude by the end of 2017, enabling the regions to benefit from intra-regional trade as soon as possible.
The primary aim of the negotiations between Sacu and the EAC is to provide commercially meaningful new markets in each region, to develop regional value chains and to enable Sacu and the EAC to deepen integration.
The TFTA presents Southern Africa with an opportunity to further diversify its export base and to pivot towards commercially meaningful new markets in Africa. The Ministers involved in the talks, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, on behalf of Sacu, and Ugandan Minister Amelia Anne Kyambadde, on behalf of the EAC, agreed on the need to expeditiously conclude the negotiations before the end of 2017, to enable businesses to immediately benefit from new market access.
Davies underscored the importance of the negotiations to open new markets in important sectors such as automobiles, beef, wines and dairy products, among others. He noted that the EAC countries produce high-quality products such as coffee, cut flowers and tea, among others. Kyambadde, in turn, highlighted the importance of free trade between the two regions and the need to develop trade-facilitating policies to underpin integration of trade among African economies.
“The TFTA is anchored on the developmental integration approach, which recognises the complementarities between market integration, industrial development and addressing infrastructure constraints.
“It is an important initiative in the implementation of the vision of regional integration that is aimed at ensuring that Eastern and Southern African countries achieve higher levels of integration, particularly in [terms of] market integration,” noted the Department of Trade and Industry in a statement released Friday.
The TFTA sets the foundation for the establishment of a larger market comprising 26 countries with a combined population of nearly 625-million people and an estimated total gross domestic product of about $1-trillion.
The main benefit of the TFTA is a larger, growing regional market that overcomes the small size of national economies, achieves economies of scale and provides a basis for enhanced intra-regional trade. Importantly, it also offers the opportunity to address supply side constraints through industrialisation, thereby improving the region’s competitiveness both in its own markets and globally.
The eleventh bilateral meeting took place to advance the market access negotiations between Sacu and the EAC, which are being undertaken within the framework of the TFTA. So far, the TFTA Agreement has been signed by 20 countries, with South Africa and Madagascar being the most recent countries to sign in July 2017.