The Citizen (Tanzania)
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Nairobi. Resource constraints have delayed the launch of the second phase of negotiations for the Comesa-EAC-Sadc free trade area.

This was revealed here on Monday by the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) Liberat Mfumukeko.

The Secretay General took over chairmanship of the task force rom Dr Stergomena Tax, the current Executive Secretary of the Southern Africa Development Community.

“There have been many hurdles to be overcome in meeting the clear priorities the Tripartite Council had set,” he said as he took over the gruelling task of bringing the three blocs to the negotiation phase.

Mr Mfumukeko, who will oversee the task over the next year, said he would prioritise resource mobilisation which will ensure finalisation of the studies for the second phase negotiations. EAC will work closely with Comesa Secretariat on the necessary actions to be taken.

These, according to him include tariff offer negotiations and ratification of the proposed free trade area that would cover 26 countries in Africa with a combined population of 600 million and combined Gross National Product of about $ 1 trillion.

He disclosed that EAC had pledged to ratify and deposit instruments of ratification of the Comesa-EAC-Sadc Tripartite Treaty by the end of February next year.

The EAC boss, urged all Comesa and Sadc member states which signed the trade arrangement to ratify the Agreement by June 2017.

Dr Tax oversaw the work of the Tripartite from June 2015 to last month. She was commended for exemplary leadership during the period the Tripartite was facing a host of challenges, including a cash crisis.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area for the three economic blocs was launched on June 10th last year at the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el Sheikh and its task force was mandated to speed up operationalisation of the FTA through, among other things, elimination of import duties.

Other tasks were commencement of phase two negotiations covering cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investments.

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