EAC, COMESA, and SADC to Announce Free Trade Zone in Egypt Next December

The tripartite summit of Heads of State and Government, slated for mid-December in Cairo is set to launch the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA).

The FTA will be among the regional blocs of East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The new tripartite free trade area aims to contribute to economic growth of the blocs and the entire African continent in general.

Sherif Fahmy – Head of the Technical Office at Trade Agreements Sector of Egypt’s Ministry of Industry and Trade – said the tripartite FTA agreement will be signed in the presence of heads of states and government representatives from 26 member states from the three blocs.

Fahmy also referred that the decision to launch the tripartite FTA was reached during the Tripartite Sectoral Committee of Ministers that concluded on last October 25 in the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura.

The Tripartite FTA popularly known as the Grand Free Trade Area, will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and the launching pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in 2017, Fahmy added.

Furthermore, the Egyptian official said the new agreement would offer significant opportunities for business and investment within the Tripartite and will act as a magnet for attracting foreign direct investment into the tripartite region. The business community, in particular, will benefit from an improved and harmonised trade regime that reduces the cost of doing business”

The tripartite FTA will encompass 26 member states from the three blocs with a combined population of 625 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1.2 trillion and will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58% of the continent’s GDP.

Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, deputy minister for commerce and industry of Zimbabwe and chairperson of the ministerial meeting, hailed the agreement, describing it as a “milestone in regional and continental integration.”

“Africa has now joined the league of emerging economies and the grand FTA will play a pivotal role in the transformation of the continent,” she is quoted as saying.

“We have made significant progress in negotiations on trade in goods, and we now need to expedite negotiations on trade-related areas, including trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy to ensure equity, among all citizens of the wider region.”