The High Level African Trade Committee discusses the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – 29 January 2015.The 4th High Level African Trade Committee (HATC) meeting kicked off today in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union. The HATC meets and provides policy orientation and recommendations to the Assembly on the acceleration and deepening of Africa’s market integration agenda. The meeting was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission and chaired by H.E. Mr. John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana. The HATC meeting received an update on the progress of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Negotiations, as well as a presentation on the outcome of the 9th Ordinary Session of the Conference of AU Ministers of Trade. It also recommended actions for implementation by the Commission and Member States in preparation for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the implementation of the Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) action plan.
The HATC’s main responsibility is to facilitate and unlock the blockages in the implementation of the framework, road map and architecture for fast-tracking the establishment of the continental free trade area (CFTA), and the action plan for boosting intra-African trade (BIAT) which became AU policy in January 2012. The meeting reviewed and discussed the recommendations of the Ministers of Trade on intra-African trade, CFTA, WTO issues, EPA and AGOA among others and gave strategic guidance to the Commission on the way forward, particularly in the light of mega trade deals being concluded at the global level. The HATC also reviewed progress towards the launch of the CFTA Negotiations at the next AU Summit.
In his opening remarks, the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E Mr. John Dramani Mahama emphasized on the urgency of the establishment of the CFTA saying, “It was a dream of our founding fathers to create a continent where people can move freely and goods and services across the continent. Fast tracking the creation of a CFTA is the way to go”
Also speaking during the meeting was the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E Dr Erastus Mwencha, who commended the efforts of the tripartite members for the progress made towards launching of the tripartite free trade area.
However, the deputy chair noted that for realization of the establishment of a CFTA, we need to move forward and not leave anyone behind.
“It is crucial to enhance value of African products, to industrialize and to forge toward the realization of a CFTA. We need to maintain the unity of purpose and talk with one voice for integration purposes”
High Level African Trade Committee is made up of the Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities. The current members of the HATC are Chad (Chair of ECCAS and CENSAD), Ghana (Chair of ECOWAS), Ethiopia (Chair of IGAD), Kenya (Chair of EAC), Libya (Chair of AMU), Zimbabwe (Chair of SADC) and Democratic Republic of Congo (Chair of COMESA). The African Union is the key institution driving Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) initiative, with the Department of Trade and Industry having the primary responsibility for the CFTA within the AU Commission.