Cape Town, May 29:
African countries will launch the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) negotiations at the upcoming African Union (AU) Summit scheduled for mid-June this year, it was announced.
The CFTA will be the main topic at the 25th AU Summit scheduled for June 14-15 in Johannesburg, Xinhua reported on Thursday.
The CFTA will create a market of over 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of over $2 trillion, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said at a press briefing in Cape Town after a fortnightly cabinet meeting.
Radebe said the CFTA would build on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) and progress achieved in the regional economic communities.
It will also give traders and investors access to a growing market and provide a basis for enhanced intra-Africa trade, he said.
At its 18th session in Addis Ababa in January 2012, the assembly of heads of state and government of the AU adopted a decision that reflected the strong political commitment of African leaders to accelerate and deepen the continent’s market integration.
The leaders agreed on a road-map for establishing the CFTA by the indicative date of 2017.
As highlighted in the road-map, the CFTA is set to build on the FTA negotiations, which would create a free trade area among the 26 countries of the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The AU wants the agreement to be fully implemented by 2016. The 26 tripartite countries represent close to 60 percent of the AU’s GDP and population, and an FTA among them would constitute a fundamental building block for the CFTA. (IANS)