SA ‘fully behind free trade deal’

South Africa fully supports the Africa Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and only did not sign it last week for technical reasons, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said yesterday. These related to the processes that had to be followed domestically for an international agreement to be signed, Davies said. “South Africa is very much part of this process. We are not holding back. We don’t have reservations or differences‚” the minister said. He noted that South Africa had actively participated in the preparation and negotiations of the agreement, which was launched at an extraordinary summit of the African Union in Rwanda last week. Davies said South Africa had no real problems with the content of the agreement though it still had to be fleshed out with more detail. South Africa had signed a declaration committing it to the process to establish the AfCFTA.

The agreement, which will remove barriers to trade, such as tariffs and import duties, and allow the free flow of goods and services between member states‚ is regarded as the foundation for the continent’s economic development but still has to be ratified by each of the signatories. It is only due to come into force in six months’ time. Ten African Union member countries including Nigeria refused to sign it. “The AfCFTA is an economic imperative to address the challenge of small and fragmented markets,” Davies said. Last year, the African market was worth R23.5-billion for South African exports, he said.