Regional Trade Body Calls for Private Sector Involvement in AfCFTA Trade Negotiations | The new times

The East Africa Business Council (EABC) has urged private sector actors to help inform the regional bloc negotiations on trade in services under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

This is in line with the ongoing development of a strategy on trade in services by the East African Community (EAC), which should better position the bloc in services liberalization negotiations at the continental level, according to Peter Mathuki, Secretary-General of the EAC.

The regional trade body brought together over 200 service sector leaders, development partners and high-level policy makers from the EAC region and beyond to discuss the private sector’s contribution to the negotiations of the trade deals. ‘EAC as part of the AfCFTA on February 24.

The EAC negotiates the AfCFTA en bloc.

African Union Member States have agreed on five priority services, namely; financial services, communications, transport, tourism and business services.

These are among seven service sectors that EAC Partner States have committed to liberalize since 2010, when the EAC Common Market Protocol came into force.

John Bosco Kalisa, Director General of the EABC, said it was very important that the five priority service providers engage in the preparation of the EAC commitments on trade in services to ensure that the region can benefit from the common African market.

“The collaboration of EAC governments and the private sector in the preparation of the strategy on trade in services is crucial to strengthen the competitiveness of the region which will then attract investments in the services sectors of African countries and the outside the continent,” he said.

However, he underscored the need to create a conducive business environment for trade in services to adapt to the new changes that will be brought about by the liberalization of services with other African countries and to exploit the new emerging opportunities in trade. services.

Currently, services account for 54% of African Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 75% of Greenfield Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) on the continent.

Dorica Phiri Nkhata, Trade in Services Adviser at the EAC Secretariat, said limited private sector participation and knowledge on the development of technical offers hamper the liberalization of services in trade.

She urged that more audits and studies be carried out to support the understanding of existing laws and regulations on services in Africa.

Million Habte, Senior Expert on Trade in Services at the AfCFTA Secretariat, revealed that the deadline for finalizing negotiations on the liberalization of trade in services is set for June 2022 by the Council of Ministers.

He explained that 46 States Parties to the AfCFTA submitted their initial offers on the liberalization of schedules of specific commitments on trade in services.

“State parties that have submitted their initial offers on services liberalization but have not ratified the agreement are expected to do so in good faith,” he added.

According to the 2017 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report, only 22% of African trade is in services, while exports remain heavily concentrated in agriculture and primary products.

Kalisa noted that Africa represents only 2% of global services exports and that African services exports are largely dominated by travel (42% of African services exports).

Considering that the AfCFTA will give the bloc access to an expansive market of over 900 million people, the EAC recently met the minimum requirements to start trading it.

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