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, there are 29 Member States across the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) namely COMESA, EAC and SADC.
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.
So far, twenty-two Member/Partner States have signed the TFTA Agreement, including Mauritius. Eleven Member/Partner States have ratified it, namely Egypt, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, Burundi, Namibia, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Agreement will come into force after fourteen instruments of ratification have been deposited.
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.
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).