South Africa has become the 19th country to sign an agreement establishing the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
Signed on Friday, the TFTA represents an integrated market of 26 countries with a combined population of 625 million people and a total gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.6 trillion.
South Africa signed the agreement in Kampala, Uganda, during the meeting of the Tripartite Sectoral Ministers’ Committee.
The TFTA was launched by the Heads of States in Sharm el-Shaik, Egypt, in June 2015 and South Africa did not sign the agreement at that stage since there was outstanding work in some of the annexures to the agreement.
“All the annexures have been completed and adopted by the tripartite Sectoral Ministers Committee, enabling South Africa to sign the agreement. South Africa is 19th country to sign the agreement,” said the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).
The agreement will enter into force once 14 countries submit their instruments of ratification. Egypt recently became the first country to ratify the agreement.
Once the agreement enters into force, it will reduce the tariffs on goods traded between the tripartite countries and create new opportunities for exports as well as regional value chains.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, who attended the Sectoral Ministers Committee meeting, said the TFTA is an important initiative in accelerating regional integration efforts to ensure that African countries trade with each other.
South Africa, the Minister said, has been a champion of the tripartite process from the beginning and it has committed to the process.
Minister Davies said the country is pleased to be in a position to sign the agreement. He said while the outstanding annexures were being finalised, South Africa, as part of Southern African Customs Union (SACU), participated in the negotiations to finalise the bilateral tariffs commitments.
Tariff negotiations between SACU and Eastern Africa Community (EAC) are very near to conclusion.
“The conclusion of these negotiations will be another important step forward in the process, since it will provide commercial benefits to our business people by enabling them to trade products between SACU and EAC countries at a reduced or zero tariff,” said Minister Davies.
The meeting was attended by Trade Ministers and officials from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and Southern African Development Community (SADC).