Ethiopia: AU proposes Special Summit over cross-border trade deal

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union will call for an extraordinary Summit to discuss and approve the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) within the negotiating deadline of Dec. 2017, Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou, leading the Heads of State body assigned to deliver the trade deal, said here Tuesday.

President Mahamadou said looking at a landscape spanning 80,000 km of land borders and tearing down the walls and boundaries to allow for free continental trade was a task that required delicate negotiations.

“Africa is very divided. It is broken up. Looking at its 80,000 km of boundaries and tariff barriers is like looking at oneself on a broken mirror,” President Mahamadou told a news conference at the 29th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The AU has received objections from at least seven countries opposed to the scale and extent of the cross-border opening up, President Mahamadou said.

The AU has launched intensive negotiations with the seven countries to ensure their concerns over the radical opening up of borders to goods and services could be taken care off in the negotiating text.

In 2012, the African leaders met in Addis Ababa at their 18th Summit, to discuss the new roadmap to the improvement of intra-African trade, examining the barriers to trade.

President Mahamadou said the African countries taking part in the trade negotiations have been seeking for a more ambitious target of opening up their markets by between 80-90%.

“It is clear the text of the agreement will take into consideration the specific interests but we still hope the seven countries would come to the same position of the majority,” President Mahamadou said.

The AU Summit will discuss further proposals to end the current standoff over the mode of creating the Continental Trade Area.

This new system of trade would enhance the movement of goods and services across boundaries.

The AU may consider holding an Extraordinary Summit dedicated to the discussion of the Free Trade Area and how it would be created.

The discussion would be followed by a meeting of the ministers of justice.

“Our generation has a historical mission of achieving economic integration for our mission,” President Mahamadou told reporters.

Most countries agree on the need for more ambitious goals to get regional trade at much higher level.

The AU will consider the special needs of the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island states as it prepares the legal text, President Mahamadou said.

PANA learnt that amongst the countries seeking much lesser opening of the borders were Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan.

These countries are demanding that the rate or amount of trade liberalisation should be maintained at 80% and not at 85-90% being proposed.

The AU says the timelines for the mandatory opening up of boundaries to trade would not be the same, something known as asymmetry.

This is where weaker economies are allowed to benefit from trade with rich countries until their own economies are able to benefit and grow resilience to competition.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 4July2017

04 july 2017 14:28:07

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