EU backs AfCFTA

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The European Union (EU) has pledged its support for the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying the agreement has the potential to spark economic growth and development.

Addressing delegates during a panel discussion on the last day of the three-day Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, the EU’s Private Sector Development Deputy Director, Axel Pougin de La Maisonneuve, said the EU was in full support of the AfCFTA and what it can do for Africa. 

South Africa, together with 53 other African states, has deposited its instrument of the AfCFTA Ratification Agreement. The agreement, which is expected to create opportunities and benefits for all the nations of the continent and enable companies to expand their markets by exporting goods and services across the continent, is anticipated come into effect in July 2020. 

“Any FTA is part of our [EU] DNA. The European Union FTA has seen the European economy grow and development and has created jobs for so many people in Europe,” said Pougin de La Maisonneuve.

The EU has FTAs with individual countries across the world. On its website, the EU says these go beyond Chapters providing for preferential tariff treatment. The agreements, says the organisation, also often include clauses on trade facilitation and rule-making in areas such as investment, intellectual property, government procurement, technical standards and sanitary and phytosanitary issues.

“Together with the African Union and governments in Africa, we also agree that the AfCFTA is the solution to the development challenge of Africa, regarding investment and job creation.

“It is a game changer and the EU is in support of it. We walk the talk. It is a financial commitment and expertise commitment that we put at the disposal of all AU regional entities and governments to gradually build capacity and expertise at these institutions that are necessary for Africans to work,” said Pougin de La Maisonneuve.

However, he said, it was important to note that aspects of the European FTAs could not be replicated in the ACFTA integration process of common and single markets.

“I’m perfectly conscious of the fact that this is a process which corresponds well to the European specifications and that was built in the 60s, 70s and 80s and the economies of nowadays are completely different from what they were at the time,” he said.

Pougin de La Maisonneuve said the gradual setting up of a common and single market of the EU required standardisation and technical normalisation, which was key.

“This has been absolutely key to trading in the EU because without these technical norms and certainty, the EU would not have worked,” he said. –