KIGALI (HAN) July 15.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. The African Union Commission (AUC) has urged African leaders and policy makers to speed up the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations and meet the 2017 deadline.
Fatima Haram Acyl, AU Commissioner for trade and industry, made the call on Thursday during the ongoing 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
The small central African country hosts the high level meeting from July 10th to 18th under the theme; “2016: African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the Rights of Women.”
“As we focus on our Agenda 2063 and other programs, we should consider meeting the Continental Free Trade Area target which is next year.
“A lot needs to be done by our leaders and policy makers to ensure that Africa trade agreement doesn’t hit the snag,” Haram Acyl, told participants at the meeting of 29th ordinary session of the AU executive council.
She appealed to African trade ministers to speed up the CFTA negotiations and meet the 2017 deadline.
Promoting continental trade area in Africa has long been a priority item for African policymakers.
In June last year, at the 25th Summit of the AU held in South Africa, African Heads of governments agreed to the creation of the CFTA by 2017 through negotiations on liberalization of trade in goods and in services.
Fatima Acyl underscored that, the whole world would question Agenda 2063 if the continent doesn’t meet the 2017 deadline and realise CFTA.
Agenda 2063 is the African continent approach to effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate to ensure positive socio-economic transformation within the next 50 years.
According to Nadir Merah, head of trade and industry at AU, the CFTA must be ambitious in removing barriers and reducing costs to intra-African trade, and improving productivity and competitiveness across the continent.
“We are remaining with a little time to beat the deadline. My appeal to African leaders is to ensure that we realise continental trade agreement by next year,” he added.
He emphasized the importance of the Kigali AU summit as key milestone towards the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area.
If successfully concluded, the CFTA would constitute the largest free trade area in the world, covering 54 member states.
Participants at the meeting observed that Africa free trade deal needs to be contextualized in a broader way that will provide benefits in terms of realizing Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The CFTA is expected to build on the achievements in terms of regional integration of African regional economic communities (RECs), as well as on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
TFTA brings together three of Africa’s major regional economic communities-the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
In January 2012, the assembly of the heads of state and government of the AU adopted a decision to put in place CFTA as part of a broader action plan for boosting intra-Africa trade.
The indicative date of 2017 was set as a deadline for concluding the CFTA negotiations.