The three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC),Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) currently meeting in Kampala have stressed the need for free trade between the trading blocs.
In a bid to have a Free Trade Area (FTA), the three RECs have recommended that a study be commissioned urgently on how the FTA will form a basis for implementation of the trade arrangement.
The Free Trade proposal was agreed upon during the tripartite meeting of Permanent Secretaries and Senior Officials from COMESA, EAC and SADC last weekend on October 18 and 19 in Kampala.
“According to all the Partner States of the three trading blocs, free trade should be established in principle but a study of a roadmap on how the free trade will be achieved must first be conducted. It will show the legal and institutional framework on how Free Trade will be conducted,” said Prudence Sebahizi, the Executive Secretary in charge of Regional Integration and a member of Rwanda’s negotiating team, in an interview with The New Times on Monday.
He added that the meeting had recommended that the issue of free trade be tackled with immediate effect after the Summit and that the study should be finalized and forwarded to the Council Of Ministers within 12 months.
Sebahizi also pointed out that Rwanda would also commission a FTA study to assess its impact on Rwanda in order to make an informed decision concerning its implementation.
All the RECs have already established FTAs among their members-countries and plans are underway to extend this integration into a Customs Union.
In the area of infrastructure development, the Permanent Secretaries and Senior Officials meeting also recommended harmonization of regional infrastructural projects and programmes including energy, transport networks including corridor and air, telecommunication and ICT infrastructure within the three RECs.
The meeting also proposed that an institutional framework should be set up for the tripartite summit.
The recommendations were submitted to the Joint Council Of Ministers’ meeting that opened on Monday 20 at the Munyonyo Speke Resort Hotel in Kampala.
The Council of Ministers’ meeting was officially opened by Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, the chairman of COMESA Council of Ministers who is also the Kenyan deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade.
In his opening remarks, Uhuru noted that the road map for the establishment of the Pan Regional Free Trade Area, with a combined population of over 525 million people and a GDP in excess of US$600 BILLION will also cover movement of persons, infrastructural development which will facilitate trade.
“This will in turn promote increased efficiency in production, promote cross border movement of finance and capital and facilitate the integration of our business community in the global world. It is therefore incumbent on all of us to support the Tripartite Process with its momentum of change.” he said.
Recommendations from the Ministerial session will be submitted to the Heads of State meeting today in Kampala.