Tripartite Free Trade Area

COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area

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The decision for establishing the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was taken at the first COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit held in 2008, in Uganda. The TFTA was officially launched on 10 June 2015 at the Third Tripartite Summit in Egypt. As at date, 29 Member States across the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) namely COMESA, EAC and SADC have signed the TFTA Agreement.

Member States

  • Republic of Angola
  • Republic of Botswana
  • Republic of Burundi
  • Union of the Comoros
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Republic of Djibouti
  • Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • State of Eritrea
  • Arab Republic of Egypt
  • Republic of Kenya
  • Kingdom of Lesotho
  • State of Libya
  • Republic of Madagascar
  • Republic of Malawi
  • Republic of Mauritius
  • Republic of Mozambique
  • Republic of Namibia
  • Republic of Rwanda
  • Republic of Seychelles
  • Republic of South Africa
  • Kingdom of Swaziland
  • Republic of Sudan
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Republic of Uganda
  • Republic of Zambia
  • Republic of Zimbabwe
  • Republic of South Sudan
  • Federal Republic of Somalia
  • Republic of Tunisia

Objective of the TFTA

The objective for embarking upon a Tripartite FTA has been motivated by the need to resolve the challenges of multiple REC memberships. Many African states belong to two or more regional blocs thus complicating the implementation of conflicting trade regimes of different regional blocs. The Tripartite FTA aims at laying the basis for the synchronization and harmonization of trade policies among member states belonging to COMESA, SADC and EAC.

The Tripartite FTA integration process is anchored on 3 pillars namely, Market Integration based on the Tripartite FTA, Infrastructure Development to enhance connectivity and reduce costs of doing businesses, and Industrial Development to address productive capacity constraints of Member States.

Signature of the Agreement

Mauritius signed the TFTA Agreement on 9 Oct 2017.

So far, five countries namely South Africa, Uganda, Egypt, Kenya and Rwanda have ratified the Agreement, while nine countries have initiated the process of ratification. These nine countries are: Sudan, Comoros, Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia and Zambia. The Agreement will come into force after fourteen instruments of ratification have been deposited.

Trade Potential

The TFTA represents an integrated market of 29 countries with a combined population of some 700 million people and a total GDP of USD 1.4 trillion. This enlarged economic space will attract more investment and promote large scale production. It is expected that the TFTA Agreement will facilitate development of regional infrastructure programs, stimulate industrial development through the creation of value chains, and increase cross border flows of investment. Positive net real income gains are expected for all TFTA countries, as well as an increase of 20% in the volume of intra-tripartite trade. Sectors projected to benefit the most are the high impact ones including: heavy and light manufacturing, processed foods and textiles and apparel, amongst others.

Negotiation of the TFTA

Negotiations on the core text of the TFTA have been concluded. The TFTA comprises the following ten annexes:

i. Annex 1 on Tariff Liberalization (market access offer)
ii. Annex 2 on Trade Remedies
iii. Annex 3 on Non-Tariff Barriers
iv. Annex 4 on Rules of Origin
v. Annex 5 on Customs Cooperation
vi. Annex 6 on Trade Facilitation
vii. Annex 7 on Transit Trade and Transit Facilitation
viii. Annex 8 on Technical Barriers to Trade
ix. Annex 9 on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures
x. Annex 10 in Dispute Settlement Mechanism

Negotiations are ongoing on tariff liberalization (market access offer) (Annex 1) and Rules of Origin (Annex 4).