Free Trade Agreements present an opportunity to access new markets

The free trade agreements in Africa, particularly the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement and the envisaged Continental Free Trade Area present an opportunity for African countries to improve intra-regional trade and diversify Africa’s current trade model of exporting raw materials and importing of finished products. This was said by the Director of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) at the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti), Ms Claudia Furriel.

Furriel was speaking today during the session on trade agreements at the SADC Industrialisation Week taking place Johannesburg. The Week, which is held under the theme Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains, started on Monday and ends tomorrow.

“The Free Trade Negotiations launched in June 2011 between the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East Africa countries would open up a market of US1.3 trillion in terms of the Gross Domestic Product. In addition, the continental free trade that is to be established with 55 countries and a GDP of US2.6 trillion presents an opportunity to access greater markets. On this free trade agreement, we are not only looking at trade in goods but also trade in services. Market integration, supported by infrastructure development and industrial development, will enable Africa to become competitive and benefit from other trade agreements with other partners,” said Furriel.

According to Furriel, the continents’ full potential will remain unfulfilled unless we address the challenges of poor infrastructure, small and fragmented markets, under-developed production structures and inadequate economic transformation.

“Regional integration is an important aspiration of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and remains a critical component of the continent’s efforts to ensure sustainable economic development and inclusive growth through the creation of a larger regional market and improving Africa’s integration in the global economy. South Africa promotes a development integration approach, based on the three pillars of market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development and we remain committed to a coordinated strategy to boost intra-Africa trade and build an integrated market in Africa,” added Furriel.

She stressed that the regional free trade agreements have a potential for attracting investment to a larger markets and transform African economies.

The Trade and Investment Officer at the United States of America Embassy in South Africa, Mr Juan Cammarano, said the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was an indication that the US’s job was not complete in Africa. He said the extension presented an opportunity for businesses to continue to grow, build capacity and commercial relations and urged them to look beyond 2025.

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