National Assembly considers African free trade agreement |04 June 2021
The National Assembly on Wednesday commenced deliberations on a motion calling for the ratification of the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), in accordance with Article 64 (4) of the Constitution.
In presenting the motion, leader of government business Bernard Georges unravelled the details of the Agreement, which entered into force on May 30, 2019 with the primary aim of boosting intra-African trade by providing a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the member states, covering trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.
The general objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single market for goods, services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent, to create a liberalised market for goods and services, and to enhance the competitiveness of the economies of party states within the continent and the global market.
Furthermore, the AfCFTA seeks to promote industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security and resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
“The agreement relates to free trade as the name suggests, which means we can trade freely without tariffs. This means we can import orange juice from Egypt as is the case at present because Egypt is a member state of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (Comesa), but we can also import from Senegal and Cameroon where we do not presently have links, without tariffs,” Hon. Georges said.
“Ratification is but the beginning, as this is a long-term project, and it will be a while yet before all the protocols and contents of the agreement are put in place, and this is normal, as one cannot be expected to abandon commerce practices which one adopted for a prolonged period, to adopt a newborn baby overnight,” Hon. Georges stated.
To achieve the objectives of the African Union (AF) flagship project, member states including Seychelles are required to progressively eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods, progressively liberalise trade in services, cooperate on investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy, and to cooperate on all trade-related areas, customs matters and the implementation of trade facilitation measures.
In addition, party states are required to establish a mechanism for the settlement of disputes concerning their rights and obligations and establish and maintain an institutional framework for the implementation and administration of the AfCFTA.
Noting the challenges in putting in place the systems to facilitate the agreement, Hon. Georges noted that Customs cooperation is one of the major hurdles and barriers to trade across the continent. Some of the negotiations are extremely complex he noted, considering Seychelles’ status as a key player in the exportation of services, through the financial services sector.
On the contrary, ratification will not only enable Seychelles to tap into untapped markets but will also open up avenues for importation tariff-free.
Numerous members deliberated on the motion, noting the benefits that the country stands to gain in future, affording their support for the motion.