BY PAUL TENTENA
LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA- The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) that will see the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) blocs merge into one free trading bloc is in steady progress according to Francis Mangeni, the Director of Trade and Customs at the COMESA secretariat.
Mangeni says that Twenty four Member States have signed the Declaration with only Libya and Eritrea, who are members of COMESA yet to sign.
“The TFTA Agreement has been signed by 20 of the 26 member countries, namely Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, State of Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Madagascar signed the TFTA Agreement on 7 July and 13 July 2017, respectively. The Agreement requires 14 ratifications to enter into force. So far, no country has ratified it,” notes Mangeni.
Negotiations for Tripartite Free Trade Area were concluded and the agreements signed on 10 June 2015. 20 countries have so far signed to join the tripartite.
“All annexes on key areas (customs, TF, standards, NTBs) have been adopted, interim arrangements for rules of origin, trade remedies and tariff offers were agreed and the Tripartite Free Trade Area can be ratified and implemented on the basis of variable geometry – willing countries can go ahead,” he says.
The aim of the Tripartite is to provide a single trade regime covering the COMESA-EAC-SADC region, to facilitate trade and investments.
Mangeni notes that regulations have been adopted with the first round of negotiations completed. Eleven member states have submitted schedules of specific commitments. The first round negotiations covered transport, communication, financial and tourism services while the second will cover business, energy and construction services.
A number of trade facilitation programs are in operation in a number of member states like NTB system, SAD/CD, CMR, ASYCUDA in all member states while STR, Fifth Freedom, North-South Corridor, OSBP, RCTG, Yellow Card are in some member states.
There is need to upscale and replicate these programs.
Meanwhile a delay by some of the 19 member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries to domesticate the COMESA treaty and competition regulations has impeded the effective enforcement of competition regulations at member states level, a top official at the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) said recently.
George K. Lipimile , Director & Chief Executive Officer at the COMESA Competition Commission notes the weak national competition enforcement regimes in member states coupled with inadequate financial resources to effectively implement programmes at both national and regional levels , and inadequate manpower to effectively implement the competition mandate at both regional and national levels are other challenges the CCC still stands prepared to face in today’s marketplace as a champion for consumers and competition.
“The lack of a competition culture in the common market and lack of a culture of compliance by both the member states and firms in the common market are some other key challenges the commission is facing,” he adds Lipimile.
There are four strategic priorities that have been outlined on what and how the CCC will deliver for the period 2016-2020 where they are determined to work on conduct harmful to competition in the Common Market, strengthen enforcement, advocacy and strategic collaboration and institutional strengthening.
He mentions that over 100 mergers and acquisitions have been assessed since 2013 with in the COMESA region attracting $5billion in new capital flows.
“Over $13m in merger notification fees has been received and about $6.5m merger notification fees shared with Member States affected by mergers under review,” said Lipimile.
The 19 member states of COMESA are Burundi, Comoros, D.R. Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Chilufya Sampa, a Director at CCC talked about cross border restrictive business practices where he mentioned that these are agreements decisions or concerted practices that are engaged in from one jurisdiction but whose effects manifest across borders into other jurisdictions such as Cartels, abuse of dominance and vertical restraints.
He said cartels can lead to high prices of goods and services, people lacking choice and poor service delivery, raise barriers to entry, unconscionable conduct and abuse of dominant position of market power that leads to exploitative conduct such as excessive pricing, poor quality goods and exclusionary conduct like limiting access to markets through tying, exclusive dealings arrangements full line forcing.