The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement

“As Africa moves forward to consolidate the benefits of intracontinental trade and become competitive, it is of great importance to our region, the long-standing commitment of our heads of state and government to promote regional integration as a general vision for the production of increased trade in the tripartite region,” said COMESA SG. Since the ABC is a “common market”, Ugandan sugar is expected to arrive in Kenya without barriers, but Kenya`s suspicions that Uganda may try to get rid of cheap sugar from third countries have made it difficult to do so. Uganda, for its part, has restricted the entry of Kenyan milk into the country. During their meeting, the two presidents agreed to remove these obstacles, but immediately afterwards, the Kenyan political opposition began campaigning against the “deal”. In fact, there were no agreements, but only a commitment between the two heads of state and government to respect the principles of the treaty and its protocols. Last June, at a summit in Cairo, the heads of state and government of three of these ICCs – ABC, COMESA and SADC – launched the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which involves 26 countries, for a total of 632 million people, or 57% of Africa`s population, and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1,300 billion (2014). The launch of the TFTA was the culmination of a process that began in 2008 with the first tripartite summit in Kampala, Uganda. However, it is not yet time to celebrate. The agreement must be ratified by 14 members before it enters into force. After it enters into force, the agreement will remain open to the accession of other AU member states. Implementation of the TFTA is essential to address the main trade restrictions in the region, namely; the structure of production and the composition of exports in the Member States/partner countries. The tripartite strategy aims to achieve economic growth by reducing barriers to trade (tariff and non-tariff). The strategy includes the implementation of programs to create and implement the tripartite free trade area, the harmonization and implementation of trade and transport facilitation measures, and the design and implementation of trade support infrastructure.

Namibia is the youngest country to ratify the TFTA agreement and today the country`s High Commissioner in Zambia, Siyave Haindongo, tabled the ratification instrument to the chair of the tripartite task force Chilishe Kapwepwe, the secretary of COMESA. The tripartite free trade agreement brings together 28 member countries of COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since 2008, there has been talk of merging COMESA member states, the East African Community (EAC) and development cooperation in southern Africa (SADC, 14 members). In 2011, the heads of state and government of the 26 African countries announced plans within these three existing regional economic communities to negotiate a tripartite free trade area of more than 600 million people and an estimated $1 trillion in trade. In June 2011, the Johannesburg governments adopted the negotiating principles, the terms of the negotiations and a roadmap for negotiating such an agreement at the 2nd Comesa-EAC-Sadc Summit. The first round of negotiations took place in Nairobi in December 2011 and the “tripartite free trade area” or #TFTA was finally signed in June 2015.