NEGOTIATIONS for the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) will be concluded by the end of next month to provide a single trade regime covering three regional blocs to accelerate trade.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
Speaking at the fourth regional sensitisation workshop, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) director of trade and customs, Francis Mangeni said 20 countries have signed all annexes on key areas such as standards, non-tariff barriers and interim arrangements for rules of origin. Trade remedies and tariff offers were also agreed upon.
“At the moment some countries are saying they want things done properly and when everything is finished then they will sign the agreements. One of these countries was South Africa and a few others. So in about two months, when we have finally finished all the outstanding issues, then South Africa will sign. This is what has delayed, but countries are saying about the same argument on ratification that after all these issues then there can also sign and then ratify. When all these outstanding issues are finally resolved we will see more progress,” he said.
“Currently, we are left with only six countries to sign the agreements and that’s not a problem and ratification now is the problem.
“When the ministers met in Kampala in July they set a deadline for October 30, 2017.”
The TFTA is a proposed African free trade agreement between the Comesa, East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
Mangeni said countries have set three deadlines to complete the agreements and ratifications for the full operationalisation of the TFTA to provide a single trade regime covering the Comesa-EAC-Sadc region, to facilitate trade and investment but in the past have been failing to meet the set deadlines.
He said Zimbabwe has done well in utilising opportunities in Comesa and also in compliance with Comesa programmes, as well as the TFTA among many others.
“Zimbabwe has signed the TFTA agreement but there have not yet ratified the agreement to be able to realise more opportunities. TFTA is an important opportunity in terms of supporting industrialisation because the industries in Zimbabwe are operating below capacity,” Mangeni said.
“There can produce more, but there are not producing as much as they can. There need a market in order to produce more and more so there need to be fully into tripartite to actually support and expedite the processes of the TFTA to be implemented through ratification.”