The Council of Ministers Responsible for Trade has reaffirmed its commitment to the Agreement Establishing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, (AfCFTA) and its readiness to commence commercially.
It said it was meaningful trading under the AfCFTA in line with the decisions of the 13th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in December 2020.
The Council of Ministers said this in a statement issued in Accra by AfCFTA Secretariat and signed by Madam Grace Khoza, Principal Communications Advisor, at the end of a Ministerial Retreat and the 7th Meeting of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Trade of AfCFTA.
The meeting was held for ministers with responsibility for trade drawn from both the 39 state parties and the 16 non-state parties across the continent.
The Council of Ministers Responsible for Trade is the main decision-making institution of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA.
Its mandate is to take decisions that will ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA.
The statement said the Council of Ministers adopted the ministerial directive on the application of the schedules of tariff concession that would ensure the provisional application of all tariff offers that were compliant with the negotiating modalities for tariff liberalisation.
It said the Council of Ministers agreed that while discussions around the outstanding issues in the rules of origin negotiations remained at the heart of the AfCFTA, they agreed to commence trading under the AfCFTA preferences based on the agreed rules of origin.
The statement also agreed on the provisional application of the rules of origin in the existing trade regimes and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), pending the adoption of all outstanding issues in the rules of origin negotiations in line with Article 42(3) of Annex 2 of the Protocol on Trade in Goods.
It said the Council of Ministers underscored the importance of industrialisation as stipulated in Article 3 of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA and agreed on the need to advance the work on industrialisation through the appointment of a Trade and Industrial Development Advisory Council to assist the Secretary-General to discharge that mandate.
It said at the same time, the ministers acknowledged that the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement was essential to surmounting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Boosting intra-Africa trade will contribute to Africa’s economic recovery, and Africa needs to trade with Africa in order to increase the continent’s competitiveness in terms of global trade,” it added.
The meeting focused on a number of topical and pressing issues, including the status of signatures and ratification and the impact on the start of trading; fast tracking the conclusion of outstanding issues under the Rules of Origin negotiations and operationalising tariff preferences for commercially meaningful trading.
The rest are prioritising the development of regional value chains in line with Article 3 of the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA.
Some of the current pressing challenges that the AfCFTA faced included: the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the start of commercially meaningful trading and lack of consensus on some key sectors in the rules of origin negotiations.
Others are the start of trading based on legally implementable and reciprocal Schedules of Tariff Concession; and the non-ratification of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA by some constituent members of Customs Unions.GNA