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Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI)

About ASCCI

The Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI) is an independent, non-profit organisation established in response to the growing need for effective participation for organised business...

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About ASCCI Membership

The ASCCI represents 18 National Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederations of Industries, Trade Associations and Employer Organisations in all the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States...

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Subcribe to our Monthly newsletter. The ASCCI e-newsletter will keep you up to date with information on events, projects and business news that is relevant to the whole Southern African Development Community (SADC) region...

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Tripartite Free Trade Areas - Regional Private Sector Dialogue

FTA 2013

Report on the Regional Private Sector Dialogue on the Tripartite Free Trade Areas

Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa, 25-26 February 2013

The objective of the meeting was to enhance the understanding and participation of the private sector in the TFTA negotiations. On the other hand, make recommendations for a more effective private sector mechanism of engagement in regional integration issues.

 

 Attendance

The meeting was attended by the Secretary General of the COMESA Secretary General, a Represantive from the SADC Secretariat, and ASCCI Chambers. Several other Trade experts also participated at this meeting. Other organisations that attended the meeting included DFID, OXFAM Southern Africa and the British High Commission.


Remarks

The SACCI representative Ms Peggy Drodskie welcomed everyone present, and applauds to the regional dialogue. She viewed the dialogue as a process towards active regional participation by the SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The meeting was opened by the ASCCI President Mr Oswell Binha. He called on the Private Sector to engage Regional Economic Bodies (REC), to enable them to be actively involved in the TFTA negotiation process. He reckoned that the forum has come at a very opportune time for the private sector as the tripartite free trade area negotiations have gained momentum this being afforded an opportunity to identify some of the issues and challenges that will need to be addressed by negotiators in developing a T-FTA architecture that is built on solid economic realities and support private sector priorities. He also noted that this initiative is in line with the goals of ASCCI strategic plan and concluded by urging the meeting to shape the basis of the regional private sector response to the Tripartite FTA. 

 

Remarks by the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR)

The representative from NIR Mrs. Sekai Kuvarika alluded that NIR was willing to support ASCCI in terms of enhancing their technical capacity to enable them to engage Government bodies in the TFTA dialogues.

The State of SADC BMOs

A presentation was made by Dr Phineas Kadenge on a research on the state of SADC BMOs which was commissioned by NIR. From his research findings Dr Kadenge highlighted that Regional BMOs and SADC private sector lack mechanisms for influencing regional & multilateral trade integration and cooperation programmes. This was a result of the BMOs’ lack of capacity and awareness of the importance of REI and lack of adequate representation of the private sector in negotiations of the regional integration agenda.

After observing the constraints that BMOs face, Dr Kadenge recommended the following strategies that BMOs can use to address these challenges:

a) Enhancement of structured support to strengthen capacities,

b) Direct financing to support dialogue processes,

c) Regular regional private sector meetings

 

It was noted that financial viability challenges are a common issue amongst the BMOs. However in some countries like Seychelles, the Chamber of Commerce are directly funded from the national budget following the French model. Concerns were raised that though government funding works in some countries, it was likely to result in a weakened private sector voice due to conflicting interests.  It was concluded that the chambers at country level should get more organised in order to translate their strengths into the regional private sector processes.

Progress in the Tripartite FTA- achievements, challenges and prospects.

The presentation was done by Dr Sindiso Ngwenya, the Secretary General of the COMESA. He noted that our low level of development is manifested in our paltry share of international trade, declining terms of trade, rising but still very low standards of living, and generally, low human development index. He further highlighted that that our continent is underdeveloped and badly needs to develop to eliminate poverty; that the rate or pace of development is not fast or high enough, and is not matching with the aspirations of the people; and that our people are increasingly impatient, hence the demonstrations and popular uprisings we have witnessed in recent years across the developing world. He reported that for the counties in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), we are committed to change this state of affairs through a process of regional integration.

The Tripartite framework was born out of a realization that the regional integration processes of, initially, the two RECs of COMESA and SADC, and later the 3 RECs of COMESA, EAC and SADC were similar and in some cases identical.  With overlaps in the membership of these 3 RECs, it was seen prudent for the 3 RECs to co-operate and harmonize their programmes.

It was noted that the Tripartite framework of co-operation is anchored on three inter-related and inter-dependent pillars, namely Market Integration, Infrastructure Development and Industrial Development. The Tripartite FTA is expected to establish streamlined rules of origin that do not only facilitate trade but also support industrial development, especially of the less developed economies and regions through value-chains and the principle of cumulation, among others

He expressed concern on the private sector lack of interest and vigor in the on-going tripartite process. The SG offered the private sector support for technical studies and private sector active participation in TFTA negotiations as compared to being observers. In order to safe guard the private sector interests the SG expressed willingness to come up with a memorandum of understanding that governs the partnership and support.

 

 The Draft FTA-The proposed road map

The presentation was done by Mr Alfred Ndabeni, who is the Programs Officer on Multilateral trade with SADC secretariat. He defined the composition of the TFTA, areas of cooperation, the proposed road map since the inaugural Tripartite heads of Government held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008. He alluded to the benefits of the TFTA and the pillars of the integration process. He challenged the private sector to be more organised and influence the processes. It was noted that SADC as a bloc is more occupied with political matters than trade issues hence the slow pace of economic integration in the region.

Comparative Experiences with FTAs- common policies, compensation and the political economy

The presentation was done by Mr Mark Kwaramba from the Wits University. It was noted that the private sector is the driving force behind trade yet it’s not adequately engaged. In light of globalization countries need to have an outward approach in doing business. The African countries should also be more practical than theoretical in approaching regional integration issues. More importantly Africa needs to need improve the ease of doing business and other bureaucratic bottlenecks.

The state of play under EPA negotiations

The presentation was done by Catherine Grant from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). In her overview of the EPA negotiations Catherine indicated that the negotiations had been stalled due to a number of reasons that include, prolonged talks on outstanding issues, the division of the region completely ignored the existence RECs, little coordination and coherence between different groups, and the absence of the position of the of the private sector regarding EPA in some Africa Countries. These factors have stalled the EPA negotiations in most regions, and in some instance it is viewed as a disintegrating mechanism to the existing RECs.  The private sector has agreed to be more active in engaging government and RECs to facilitate and enable the development of Africa Markets. It was pointed out that SADC has been eclipsed by other RECs in terms of Private Sector participation and ASCCI should be proactive in ensuring that they participate in the SADC.

 

Decisions on the TFTA and EPA Negotiations

The meeting agreed that ASCCI become more active in the TFTA negotiation process. In line with that decision, the meeting noted that:

  1. The role of the private sector is acknowledged in the draft TFTA hence the need to expeditiously form and operationalize the involvement of ASCCI.
  2. The TFTA is a crucial development platform for Africa and negotiators should be cautious and preserve the progress and benefits acquired so far and commitments taken at national and regional levels.
  3. While recognizing and acknowledging the progress and the gains made so far in the EPA negotiations, the meeting noted that the TFTA is a crucial and urgent agenda for African economies.
  4. ASCCI Negotiators should be capacitated to engage in the process immediately.  
  5. The meeting called on the private sector to engage more with their governments and the feeling in the meeting was that Africa was going in the right direction in regional integration.

  

Way forward

 A team of negotiators on behalf of ASCCI was assembled as follows;

  • ASCCI President/ASCCI Vice President
  • NCCI President
  • CEO of  ZNCC
  • CEO of Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • CEO of Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
  1. ASCCI secretariat should Develop and circulate simplified information on the TFTA for the benefit of members
  2.  ASCCI secretariat should develop common private sector positions on the TFTA.
  3. Enhance ASCCI policy advocacy and engagement capacity

 

Click here to download the Full Oxfam Tripartite Free Trade Areas Report March 2013

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