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Saturday, 04 November 2023 12:05

Africa must 'not create fragmentation within AfCFTA as we implement AGOA' |Mene.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, has cautioned that trade ties with the United States should not infringe on efforts to boost regional trade on the continent.

Mene was speaking at a media briefing on the side lines of the ongoing AGOA forum held in Johannesburg.

The American driven AGOA is aimed at enhancing market access for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa while the African Union's AfCFTA is aimed at significantly boosting and enhancing intra-trade across all African states.

"We need to rethink Agoa in this new context presented by the AfCFTA, "he said.

"Whatever the configuration of what Agoa will be, may I make a number of observations framing the dialogue in this emerging context? First, the alignment of Agoa with the AfCFTA must be encouraged. We must assure that Agoa supports the implementation of the AfCFTA, regional integration, and that Agoa does not inadvertently undermine the economic integration progress that Africa has made within the AfCFTA."

"An example of how that alignment can take place is if you look at the protocol on investment which establishes enhanced legal rights for investors but also enables countries to regulate investment inflows in the public interest. 

"Similarly in the area of intellectual property rights. The US TR [United States Trade Representative] under Ambassador [Katherine Chi Tai] has been very clear that they support reforms of the global patent system so that it is at the service of public health and at the service, in our case as the continent, at the service of industrial development and job creation. "

"These are some of the principles, we believe, should be considered where we are to have a discussion about trade and investment between AGOA eligible countries and the United States. These are some of the complementarities [between AGOA and the AfCFTA] that can be explored," he said.

Discussions at the Agoa forum this week will focus on the trade agreement's renewal, as well as ways it may be enhanced. The agreement, which is due to expire in 2025, provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to US markets.

"I'm very encouraged that the US is willing to listen and is sensitive to this need to progress on integration" he said at the session.

The Secretary General was emphatic when asked about the possibility of AGOA becoming an obstacle for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

"It's a technical issue. I don't think it's really a political issue, it's a technical issue about how we make that legal technical alignment between the rules of the AfCFTA and AGOA.

"We are taking measures to ensure that the implementation of AGOA supports industrial development, supports regional integration [and] supports the objectives of the AfCFTA," he concluded.

Mene noted that the AfCFTA is not yet in a position to negotiate trade deals as a bloc, given that it does not have its own customs union. This precludes the AfCFTA from negotiating a reciprocal trade agreement with the US.