AU Ministers of Trade report progress in AfCFTA negotiations

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JUST short of one month after assuming the chairmanship of the African Union Ministers of Trade, South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel has chaired his second meeting of the Ministerial negotiating body with the aim of finalising the key aspects of the outstanding AfCFTA negotiations to enable the start of preferential trade on 1 January 2021.

The 12th Meeting of the African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT) took place virtually on  October 27 2020 with the participation of 38 African Union Member States.

Ministers noted significant progress in the finalisation of additional Rules of Origin following the adoption of a prioritised work programme and roadmap for the outstanding negotiations by the 11th AMOT held on 30 September 2020 to facilitate the start of preferential trade under the AfCFTA.

It is expected that further substantive progress will be made in the conclusion of additional outstanding chapters on Rules of Origin in the next round of negotiations in an effort to unlock and finalise commercially and mutually beneficial tariff offers. In considering outstanding Rules of Origin, Minister Patel emphasised the importance of concluding Rules that promote and enhance a ‘Made in Africa, Grown in Africa, Designed in Africa’ approach.

‘It is important that we seek to ensure that agreed Rules of Origin promote and support local production and value addition in Africa. Our Rules, therefore, should not be designed to benefit third parties’ said Minister Patel.

Also participating in the 12th AMOT, Deputy Minister Nomalungela emphasised that ‘Rules of Origin should incentivise the expansion of Africa’s manufacturing capacity, including the development of supply chains and maximum value addition within the Continent. These rules must serve to spur increased investment in local African productive capacity and job creation’

Ministers further emphasised the need for State Parties to the AfCFTA Agreement to prioritise the finalisation and submission of tariff offers on the basis of the agreed Rules of Origin. The importance of ratification by AU member states to enhance inclusiveness in preferential trade under the AfCFTA was again encouraged.

Minister Patel acknowledged that the spirit of consensus building in the AfCFTA negotiations would contribute to successful deliverables for the Extra-ordinary Summit.

Minister Patel also noted the series of focused meetings of the negotiations and implementation structures to be held during the month of November 2020 to ensure that the necessary prequisties for trade are in place to support the commencement of preferential trade. These include, amongst others, the consideration of trade in services offers, the finalisation of tariff concessions on the basis of as many agreed Rules of Origin as possible, as well as the finalisation of the necessary customs documentation.

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