Tripartite Free Trade Area to reduce trading costs
WALVIS BAY – The costs involved in cross-border trading could be reduced if all programmes under the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement are implemented.
Mark Pearson, the programme director of TradeMark Southern Africa, said this during a presentation delivered at a two-day information-sharing session of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics in Walvis Bay recently.
The session, which was facilitated by the Namibian Agricultural Trade Forum, discussed the importance of trade in the development of Namibia.
The TFTA is a grouping of 27 Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) states.
The tripartite strategy consists of the design and implementation of the TFTA, the preparation of a draft tripartite agreement and the design and implementation of infrastructure projects along corridors to improve the regions’ infrastructure.
The agreement is expected to offer better trading preferences than existing regional economic communities (REC), and level trading arrangements. It is being negotiated in two phases over a 36-month period, which started in June 2011.
The first phase, among other things, covers tariff liberalisation, rules of origin, customs procedures and simplification of customs documentation.
The second phase will cover trade-related issues such as trade-in services, competition policy, intellectual property rights, and trade development and competitiveness.
A Tripartite Trade Negotiation Forum (TTNF) was formally constituted in December 2011 and is responsible for undertaking the negotiations. To date it has met three times.
The forum has now completed its preparatory work and is about to embark on the negotiation of substantive issues, which is expected to start next month.
Other strategies are a regional industrialisation programme and the preparation of a comprehensive Tripartite Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme.
“If all of these programmes are to be implemented, it should reduce the costs of cross-border trade, leading to higher economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation,” said Pearson.
A Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) study estimates that the average growth rate for 53 African countries will be 6.2 per cent per year between 2010 and 2040.
However, 26 African countries should record an average growth higher than the continental average of 6,2 per cent. According to PIDA, by 2040, Africa will have a population of 1,8 billion and an annual per capita income of N$84 274.
“There is a need to plan ahead for this expansion by removing barriers to trade between tripartite countries and work together to achieve an African Economic Community,” the TradeMark Southern Africa programme director indicated.