MINISTER NEGOTIATES FULL OPERATIONALIZATION OF AFCFTA
Minister of Commerce Mancoba Khumalo

MINISTER NEGOTIATES FULL OPERATIONALIZATION OF AFCFTA

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo, participated in the 7th meeting of the African Union
Ministers of Trade to engage in negotiations for a full operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement(AfCFTA). The meeting was held last Wednesday and Thursday in Cairo, Egypt. AfCFTA is a free trade area outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 49 of the 55 African Union nations, and was brokered
by the African Union (AU) and signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities,
goods, and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022. The proposal will come into force after ratification by 22 of the signatory states. According to Thabile Mdluli, the Ministrial Communications
Officer, the AfCFTA will bring together an extended market for the continent .Mdluli said Phase 1 of the negotiations covers trade in goods and trade in services. On trade in goods, the level of ambition is to liberalize over a period of 10 years for developing countries and 13 years for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) 97% of the tariffs, in order to boost intra-African trade. Therefore, 3% of the tariffs will be excluded, subject to be reviewed after five years, from the year of coming into force of the AfCFTA. On trade in services, the approach
is to liberalize progressively in different rounds of negotiations, in the agreed priority sectors. She further stated that on the first round, five priority sectors have been agreed upon and endorsed by the AU Summit of
Heads of State and Government, and these are Business, Communication, Financial, Tourism services and Transport services. Phase II of the AfCFTA negotiations, which will commence in 2019, will cover Competition, Investment
and Intellectual Property Rights. Mdluli stated that the Ministers were also given an update on the status of ratification of the AfCFTA. Thirteen Members of the AU, including Eswatini, have deposited their instruments of ratification and this leaves nine more Members to follow suit, in order to reach the threshold of 22 Members, for the AfCFTA to come into force. The Ministers also adopted a declaration highlighting issues of great interest and importance to the African Countries, at the World Trade Organization (WTO), such as preserving the Doha Mandate on development and the principles of transparency and inclusiveness in the multilateral trading system (MTS).
“In a Breakfast Meeting with His Excellency Ambassador Albert Muchanga, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Khumalo reaffirmed Eswatini’s keen and strategic interest to be considered to host the Secretariat/Headquarters of the AfCFTA”, said Mdluli. Consequently, the Honourable Minister also met with his counterpart, Adan Mohamed from the Republic of Kenya, on the same issue of hosting the Secretariat of the AfCFTA.
During the meeting, Minister Khumalo said they discussed the necessary steps that would make Eswatini a Member and beneficiary of the products that are being offered by the AFREXIMBANK. These products range from supporting structural and transformational reforms and other capacity-building interventions to address the challenges of supply side constraints that hinder many African countries to trade optimally. On a different note, Minister Khumalo also had an engagement with aviation and logistics expert Ashraff Aziz, who has an interest in
exploring business opportunities in the areas of cargo airfreight and logistics, including warehousing and storage.

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