The Council of Ministers of Trade in Africa has reaffirmed its readiness to commence trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In line with that, the council has adopted a ministerial directive on the application of schedules of tariff concession that will ensure the provisional application of all tariff offers that are compliant with the negotiating modalities for tariff liberalisation.
The council made the commitment at its seventh meeting in Accra last Sunday.
The meeting, which was chaired by the Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, Mr. Ebrahim Patel, was attended by ministers with responsibility for trade from both 39 state parties and 16 non-state parties across the continent.
Also present was the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr. Wamkele Mene.
A statement issued by the AfCFTA Secretariat after the meeting said: “The Council of Ministers agreed that while discussions around the outstanding issues in the rules of origin negotiations remain at the heart of AfCFTA, they agreed to commence trading under the AfCFTA preferences on the basis of the agreed rules of origin and the provisional application of the rules of origin in the existing trade regimes and regional economic communities (RECs), pending the adoption of all outstanding issues in the rules of origin negotiations, in line with Article 42(3) of Annex 2 of the protocol on trade in goods.”
It added that the council underscored the importance of industrialisation, as stipulated in Article 3 of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, and agreed on the need to advance the work on industrialisation through the appointment of a Trade and Industrial Development Advisory Council to assist the secretary-general to discharge that mandate.
“At the same time, the ministers acknowledged that the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement was essential to surmounting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Boosting intra-Africa trade will contribute to Africa’s economic recovery, and Africa needs to trade with Africa in order to increase the continent’s competitiveness in terms of global trade,’’ it said.
According to the statement, the meeting also focused on a number of topical and pressing issues, including the status of signatures and ratification and the impact on the start of trading; fast-tracking the conclusion of outstanding issues under the rules of origin negotiations; operationalising tariff preferences for commercially meaningful trading, as well as prioritising the development of regional value chains, in line with Article 3 of the agreement establishing AfCFTA.
It further mentioned some of the challenges facing AfCFTA to include “the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the start of commercially meaningful trading; lack of consensus on some key sectors in the rules of origin negotiations; the start of trading on the basis of legally implementable and reciprocal schedules of tariff concession and the non-ratification of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA by some constituent members of customs unions’’.