Lusaka, 30 March 2023 (TDI): In the 5th meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) adopted legal instruments to implement the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA).

In the virtual meeting, the Ministers adopted six instruments relating to trade and customs, namely the tripartite agreement on the movement of businesspersons, annexes on the elimination of import duties, trade remedies, rules of origin, dispute settlement mechanism and the TFTA protocol on competition policy.

Further, the Council also adopted the guidelines, manuals, and working procedures developed on rules of origin and technical barriers to trade, which comprise sanitary and phytosanitary matters and non-tariff barriers.

According to a released statement by COMESA, the other sets of instruments adopted by the ministers is related to road transport.

Which includes the Vehicle Load Management Agreement, Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement, Vehicle Load Management Model Law, Cross Border Road Transport Model Law, Road Traffic Model Law, Road Traffic and Transport Transgression Model Law, and Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Road Model Law.

It is also added in a statement that the Council applied the principle of variable geometry which allow Member States that are not ready to apply them, to do so when ready.

The measures will provide room for discussions to continue at a bilateral level while at the same time allowing those countries that are ready, to proceed with their implementation.

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After the adaptation of trade and transport instruments. The Council’s focus is on the ratification of the TFTA, which is currently short of three Member States’ signatures to achieve the 14 thresholds to enable it to enter into force, said in a statement.

Notably, out of 22 signatories, 11 member states have ratified it, which includes Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

It is also to be noted that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is the key financier to the tripartite programme, during the meeting, a Representative of AfDB, Leila Mokaddem, welcomed the finalization of the instruments as they will pave way for the implementation of the TFTA.