11 Jan African free trade tariff rules should be completed by July-official
JOHANNESBURG – Members of Africa’s new free trade area should complete their tariff reduction schedules and finalise essential rules of origin by July, a senior official with the bloc’s secretariat said on Monday.
African countries began officially trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Jan. 1, after months of delays caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Experts, however, say full implementation of the deal will likely take years.
Under the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, members must phase out 90% of tariff lines over the next five to 10 years. Another 7% considered sensitive will get more time, while 3% will be allowed to be placed on an exclusion list.
Forty-one of the zone’s 54 member states have submitted tariff reduction schedules.
Meanwhile, the rules of origin – an essential step for determining which products can be subject to tariffs and duties – must also be completed.
During a panel discussion at the Reuters Next conference on Monday, Silver Ojakol, chief of staff at the AfCFTA Secretariat, said nearly 90% of the rules of origin had now been agreed.
“So the remaining 10% must be completed by July this year,” he said. “By the end of June, we should have completed both the tariff scheduling and the rules of origin.”
The AfCFTA aims to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The World Bank estimates it could lift tens of millions out of poverty by 2035.
But Ojakol said that the remaining obstacles were not simply related to tariff harmonisation.