Leaders Start Negotiation for Free Trade Area

Ethiopia to be part of the free trade zone

African trade officials met this week in Johannesburg to launch negotiations for a free trade area (FTA) which would embrace more than 26 countries, and about a trillion dollars of economic output.

The proposed deal would unite three existing trade blocs in central, eastern and southern Africa. It is believed that the free trade area will do away with most trade barriers between participating countries. African leaders said that the Free Trade Area (FTA) would be practical within three years.

Two of the blocs, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC), have already been enjoying tariff- and quota-free trade.

In the mean time, the third bloc, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), only has levies on 15 percent of goods and should be removing those by January.

When the negotiations are concluded, the enlarged FTA would include Ethiopia, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Commerce within Africa is limited with not more than 10 percent of the continent's trade being conducted between African countries, while the balance goes overseas.
After its formation is complete, the free trade area will be hopefully open to regions throughout the whole continent, Diouf of the African Agency for Trade and Development said.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, Reuters

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