UNECA urges concerted efforts to exploit potential of African free trade pact

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ADDIS ABABA, June 10 (Xinhua) -- The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Monday called for concerted efforts to exploit the transformative economic potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.

The urgent call was made by ECA's Deputy Executive Secretary Giovanie Biha during a two-day high-level ministerial meeting concluded on Monday at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

"AfCFTA legally entered into force but for it to deliver its transformative economic potential, the signatory countries - and the few countries that have not yet signed - must rapidly join and ratify the Agreement to ensure that the continent moves forward together as one entity," ECA's deputy chief said.

According to Biha, issues related to the scheduling of tariff offers and finalization of the rules of origin are among the vital imperatives towards the successful implementation of the continental free trade pact.

"Difficult decisions must yet to be made and compromises sought, as we transform the AFCFTA legal text into an operable instrument," Biha told African trade ministers.

Biha also stressed that as the continental free trade pact is set to start operationalisation during the upcoming AU summit, which is slted for next month in Niamey, Niger, "progress must be made with the AfCFTA implementation roadmap."

AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga also said that "the coming into existence of the AfCFTA is a continuation of a long journey that started with the establishment of regional economic communities as building blocks of the African Economic Community."

"From here, Africa has to move to the next stages of customs union, common market, monetary union and eventually African Economic Community, " the AU commissioner stressed.

Muchanga also disclosed that the process of selecting the country to hold the AfCFTA Secretariat has started and final decision on the hosting will be made at the Niamey Summit, scheduled for July 7.

African ministers of trade, during their meeting, also adopted various decisions that include African customs unions to maintain the integrity of their Common External Tariff (CET) in accordance with the adopted modalities.

They also decided that the AfCFTA's main goal of 90 percent non-sensitive tariff lines "to be communicated to the AU ahead of high-level meetings that will take place in Niamey before the AU Summit."

The agreed Rules of Origin, Online Tariff Negotiation Portal, African Trade Observatory, Pan-African Payment and Settlement platform, and the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) mechanism are also expected to be tabled for clearance at the Niamey summit in July, it was noted. Enditem

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