Business Hub – Cairo:
Yesterday, in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, the ninth meeting of the Council of Ministers of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which was held over two days, was concluded in the presence of a number of trade ministers of the member states of the agreement, the secretariat of the agreement and representatives of development partners, including the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the World Customs Organization and the African Import and Export Bank.
The meeting aimed to adopt a number of decisions in the field of trade in goods and services, intellectual property, competition, investment, dispute settlement, finding consensual solutions and political orientations on a number of issues related to the negotiations of the first stage, foremost of which is the schedules of customs reductions and rules of origin. These meetings have been held periodically since the agreement entered into force in May 2019 with the aim of activating preferential trade within the region and following up on all commercial developments, whether on issues that have been negotiated and entered into force or topics under negotiation.
In this context, Ibrahim El-Sigini, Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry for Economic Affairs, stressed during his participation in the meeting on behalf of Nevin Gamea, Minister of Trade and Industry, Egypt’s keenness, since the beginning of the negotiations, on its full commitment and effective participation in order to complete the negotiation on outstanding technical matters from the first stage of negotiations, especially the rules of origin and activating the application of Agreement through ratification and publication of schedules of tariff reductions, Noting that the Arab Republic of Egypt and its political leadership believe in the ability of brotherly African countries to create regional economic policies that contribute to their resilience in the face of crises in order to achieve an increase in the volume of intra-African trade and economic integration, And in implementation of the goals and vision of Africa Strategy 2063.
With regard to trade in goods, El-Sigini stressed the importance of reaching consensual solutions on the outstanding issues in the rules of origin negotiations, particularly in the automotive, sugar, textile and clothing sectors, given that the privileges of expanding the benefits of this agreement to include the outstanding sectors important to African economies outweigh the long time spent in further negotiations. This prevents the African private sector from enjoying the advantages and opportunities that the agreement can offer, Noting that the Ministerial Council approved the work programs of the sub-committees concerned with non-tariff barriers and technical barriers to trade, As well as a guide to rules of origin for the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The Assistant Minister for Economic Affairs pointed out that the member states, led by Egypt and South Africa, praised the efforts of the agreement secretariat to prepare a consensus package for the vehicle sector and its parts, which consists of a regional strategy for the auto industry and an implementation plan for it with soft rules for some items in Chapter 87 as a compromise solution that might accelerate the consensus between Countries in this sector to achieve comprehensive and sustainable development in the African continent on an equal basis.
In the context of trade in services, El-Sigini indicated that the committee had adopted a schedule of specific commitments for 15 states party to the agreement, which is a major step forward to start trade exchange in the field of trade in services within the framework of the region. Pointing out that it was agreed to extend the date for completing the topics related to the second phase negotiations, investment issues, intellectual property rights and competition, In view of the existence of some important issues in the negotiations that require consultations with the States Parties at the national level, The procedural rules of the Selection Committee for the appointment of members of the Appeals Panel, which are presented in the framework of dispute settlement, were also approved.
On the sidelines of the ministerial meeting, the African Development Bank and the secretariat of the agreement, By signing a financing agreement estimated at about $11.4 million within the framework of the institutional support project for the effective implementation of the activities of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
It is worth noting that the eleventh meeting of the committee was held at the level of senior trade officials in the capital, Accra, from 20-24 July 2022.