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East and Southern Africa trade bodies discuss free trade areas

posted 16 Mar 2012, 07:03 by Mpelembe   [ updated 16 Mar 2012, 07:05 ]

Three African trade bodies met in Zambia's capital Lusaka this week to map the way forward for a free trade area between 26 countries covered in the Southern and East Africa trade blocs.

Delegates from three regional economic blocs in Eastern and southern Africa met in Lusaka, Zambia on Thursday (March 15) to discuss ways of establishing free trade areas for member states.
The common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African community (EAC), represent 26 African countries with over 500 million people.

The objective of the three regional blocs is to expand trade and reduce poverty in East and Southern Africa, by cutting tariffs and other barriers to trade.

Zambia encouraged members to be transparent during the tripartite trade negotiations as well as exchange information and data that would help address underdevelopment in the region.

Francis Mangeni, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa director of trade customs, and monetary affairs said members would come up with a harmonised trade agreement for the region among other things.

"We are way into the negotiations, so the purpose of this tripartite trade negotiations forum meeting is to work out the precise modalities for the negotiations, establish the technical working groups in some of the specialised technical areas will be dealt with, to reach a common understanding on the principles for the negotiations so that everybody works from the same page," said Mangeni.

If the free trade areas go ahead key taxes on exports and imports of goods between the countries included in the bloc will be slashed clearing the way for faster and more cost effective trade.

Analysts say as much as 60 percent of current spending on exports and imports within the region is wasted on over priced border tarrifs and a lack of decent transport routes.

But the measures have been broadly welcomed by member states in the bloc, some retailers and manufacturers like Misozi Chilufya who runs a clothing store in Lusaka, say it will be some time before they notice the effects.

"Its really not benefiting us because not all our stuff is coming from within Africa, Maybe if we have a situation where we would be getting stuff from say East Africa, South Africa and stuff like that maybe that way it would benefit us more in the sense that even the taxes will be lower," said Chilufya.

The tripartite is also establishing regional infrastructure development programs in transport, energy and communications technology among other projects.