Tunisia set to join COMESA Free Trade Area by year end
The number of countries participating in the COMESA Free Trade Area is set to rise as Tunisia prepares to join the trading regime by the end of this year.
Trade Minister Omar Behi told a visiting COMESA delegation that the government has established a thirty-member national technical committee on the implementation of the COMESA FTA composed of experts from the public and the private sector.
Currently, 16 out 21 Members are participating in the COMESA FTA with others in various stages of joining the trade regime. Tunisia joined COMESA in July last year, together with Somalia, bringing the number of members States to the regional body to 21. Since then, the country has embarked on a series of activities aimed at deepening its integration into COMESA programmes.
Tunisia recently hosted a two-day National Workshop on The Implementation of The Regional Economic Integration Agenda. Consequently, a team of senior officials from the COMESA Secretariat, institutions and specialized agencies led by Secretary General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe traveled to Tunis to support this initiative.
The workshop brought together a cross section of officials from the public and private sectors. Its objective was to provide technical information to stakeholders in the country on the implementation of the COMESA Regional Economic Integration agenda with a focus on programme implementation and procedures for joining COMESA institutions.
Discussions centered on the implementation of the Free Trade Area, COMESA Trade Facilitation Instruments, Market Access, the COMESA Competition Regime, the Regional Payment and Settlement System (REPSS) and the COMESA Standards and Quality Assurance (SQMT) programme. The COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA) the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC), COMESA Clearing House and the Federation of National Association of Women in Business in Business were part of the mission.
Addressing delegates at the workshop hosted at the Tunisian Export Promotion Agency (CEPEX), Minister Behi said his country is at an advanced stage of preparations for the implementation of the COMESA Free Trade Area following the deposition of the Ratification Instrument of joining the regional in June this year.
“The national workshop will assist our country finalize its preparations and be ready for implementation of the COMESA FTA before the end of 2019,” he said.
Secretary General Kapwepwe commended the government for completing the admission process and expressed COMESA’s commitment to provide technical expertise to Tunisia when needed.
She added: “COMESA regional economic integration agenda has been tried and tested and the 21 Member States are already reaping its benefits as evidenced by increased volumes of intra-COMESA Trade in both goods and services.”
During the mission, which was her first in the country, Ms. Kapwepwe held bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister H.E. Yousef Chaheid, Ministers Mr. Omar Behi (Trade), Mr. Mohamed Ridha Chalghoum (Finance) Mr. Zied Laadhari (Investment) and the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs Mr Sabri Bach Tobji.
COMESA FTA provides participating countries with access to the larger regional market including the East African Community and the Southern African development Community (SADC) through the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite arrangement.
Transformed in 1994 from PTA to COMESA, the regional bloc has supported Member States participate in the FTA through reduction of tariffs and removing non trade barriers.
Trade facilitation tools such as the COMESA Simplified Trade regime have been developed to ensure that small scale and medium traders benefit from the free trade regime.