Seychelles signs Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement
Vice President Danny Faure representing President James Michel at the Third COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, signed today the Declaration launching the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement. The Vice President stated tThis represents a historic milestone for regional integration in Africa because upon coming into effect, the TFTA will become the largest trading area on the continent. This also shows Seychelles’ continuing engagement in the African economic community’s vision for a deeper economic integration.”
The Tripartite Free Trade Area will span the length of the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town, and will represent a market of 26 countries with a combined population of 625 million people which is 57% of Africa’s population and with a total GDP of US$1.3 trillion (2013) contributing to 58% of Africa’s GDP. The TFTA is expected to bolster intra- regional trade by creating a wider market, increase flows of goods and services, enhance competitiveness and encourage regional development.
Apart from being able to have access to a larger single regional market for both its exports and imports, Seychelles will also stand to benefit from this agreement as it is expected to streamline the import/export process for traders to the region. This in turn is expected to improve the ease of doing business and, generally, contribute to economic growth.
The launching of the Free Trade Area is limited to goods in Phase I of the negotiations. Outstanding issues of Phase I, such as the Rules of Origin, Trade Remedies and Dispute Settlement, will be negotiated under the “built-in agenda.”
Phase II negotiations are planned to commence from July 2015 , and will include negotiations in the areas of services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. Parallel to the negotiations on market access, there will be negotiations on industrial and infrastructural development in the Tripartite region. It is to be noted, however, that the TFTA will only become operational once a simple majority (14) of member states ratify and submit their instrument of accession.