GIS - June 01, 2012: The 3rd Meeting of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Trade Negotiating Forum opened this morning at Grand Bay International Conference Centre.
The Tripartite initiative aims at harmonising the trade regimes of the COMESA, EAC and SADC through the establishment of an enlarged Free Trade Area (FTA). The objective of the Tripartite FTA is to achieve a larger market with a single economic space which will make it more attractive to investment and large scale production.
Around 130 delegates from 26 Tripartite Member States are attending the three-day forum in Grand Bay.
The Principle of Special and Differential Treatment and the Status of the Draft Tripartite FTA Agreement constitute two broad areas of discussions, while Technical working groups are to examine Rules of Origin (and Tariff Liberalisation), Customs Cooperation and Technical Barriers to Trade.
Mauritius is represented by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade. Representatives of the Mauritian public and private sectors are also participating in the meeting.
In his opening remarks, the head of the Mauritian delegation, Mr Assad Bhuglah, Director of International Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, said that the Tripartite is a very important milestone especially when there is a new economic order taking place. ‘It is time that Africa including Eastern and Southern African countries organise themselves to face challenges of this new economic order’, he stressed.
According to Mr Bhuglah, Mauritius is committed to play a very active role in the Tripartite initiative. The geographical position of the country is an important asset for the Tripartite as historically the island has been the star and the key of the Indian Ocean and Mauritius wants to be the hub between Africa and Asia, he added.
First Tripartite Summit
The decision to establish the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA was taken by the first Tripartite Summit held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008.
Two major decisions were then taken in terms of moving towards a single market, namely: establishment of an enlarged Free Trade Area encompassing the member states of the COMESA-EAC-SADC with the ultimate goal of achieving a single Customs Union; and working towards a merger into a single bloc with the objective of fast-tracking the attainment of the African Economic Community.
It is estimated that exports among the 26 Tripartite countries increased from US$7 billion in 2000 to US$ 27 billion in 2008 and imports grew from US$ 9 billion to US$ 32 billion in 2008. This trade increase was in large measure spurred by the FTA initiatives of COMESA, EAC and SADC.