Government needs to first look at ways of strengthening its attractiveness in terms of trade and investment before ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), trade experts have said.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Trade Law Centre (Tralac) co-founder, Gerhard Erasmus told a two-day awareness workshop on AfCFTA that while it was good that a lot of time was being spent moving the AfCFTA process forward a lot work has to be done.
Tralac is a South African-based organisation which develops technical expertise and capacity in trade governance across Africa.
“What I am saying is while recognising AfCFTA, do not forget that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of further negotiations, tidying things up, completing negotiations and starting ratifications implementations,” he said.
“Well, it (AfCFTA) is probably not your number one priority but it is part of a bigger agenda you have to address and you will have to prioritise where you start, what you do in order to attract investment, to revitalise domestic industrialisation, growth and mining.
“My argument would be many things need to be done domestically in order to become a more attractive destination for investment and involvement.”
Erasmus said it was important to make sure the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement was conducive notwithstanding that international agreements were also important.
The need to exercise caution comes as government is in the process of ratifying the AfCFTA agreement with negotiations expected to be completed sometime this year before being presented to Parliament for adoption.
The areas up for negotiations include the rules of origin, tariff liberalisation and tariff schedules.
But, in order to adopt the AfCFTA, government may be forced to domesticate certain aspects of the agreement to allow for an alignment of implementing it.
Before, government has shown its reluctance to implement trade agreements as seen when it breached the Sadc Protocol on Trade of 1996 articles three and seven which caused a brief row with South Africa.
Tralac executive director, Trudi Hartzenberg said a certain degree of liberalisation would be needed for the AfCFTA.
“The linear model of regional integration is very much the model adopted by the European Union and it tracks progress in regional integration from the establishment, first phase usually, to establish a free trade area.
This means member states retain policy space towards third parties, they liberalise trade amongst themselves and in terms of article 24 of the GATT, so if it is a free trade area amongst the developing and developed countries they have to liberalise substantially or trade,” she said.
However, she added that the liberalisation does not have to be as high in terms of requirements.
Article 24 of the GATT is one of the World Trade Organisations trade protocols which set out rules for bilateral agreements.
Last month, government was among, the 44 countries in Rwanda that signed the AfCFTA while 11 countries abstained.