Leaders sign tripartite FTA agreement for Africa/ME

By John O'Hanlon

On June 10 at Sharm el-Sheikh the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan were among those who signed a 26-nation free trade agreement that will create a continent wide common market from Cairo to Cape Town.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) pact is the outcome of negotiations over the last five years, however some details remain to be thrashed out. The schedule for bringing down trade barriers has yet to be worked out, and TFTA will have to be ratified by each participating national government over the coming two years.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, said that with the launch of the TFTA "Africa has made it clear that it is open for business." The deal will bring together the three existing trade communities, the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The combined GDP of the nations belonging to these groups (some belong to more than one) amounts to more than $1 trillion.

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