Bring on AfCFTA, says Malawi

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Lilongwe - The Malawi government says it has put in place measures in readiness for the Africa Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it rolls out on January 1, 2021.

Trade Minister Sosten Gwengwe told The Southern Times Business that the country was committed to the historic agreement that creates one of the world’s largest ever free trade pacts.

“As a ministry, with the help of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, we have formulated a strategy on national implementation of the AfCFTA. The strategy outlines mitigation measures on any possible impacts of the AfCFTA,” Minister Gwengwe said.

Among the instruments in pace, the minister said, were those on rules of origin, the Portal on the Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, and the Schedule of Specific Commitments and Tariff Offers.

Rules of origin are laws, regulations and administrative rulings applied by governments to determine the source of goods, services or investments. The determination of origin of a given product is a prerequisite in establishing whether a product is eligible for preferential tariff regime, otherwise third parties can take advantage and move their products and/or services and illegitimately benefit from tax exemptions.

The Portal on the Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers’ objective is to progressively eliminate existing non-tariff barriers and refrain from issuing new ones in order to enhance and facilitate intra-Africa trade.

The Malawi government says this mechanism will facilitate state parties’ reporting, monitoring and negotiations on removal of non-tariff barriers across regional economic communities and the continent as a whole. 

Minister Gwengwe expressed optimism that the facility would provide real time communication on non-tariff barriers to help improve trade in goods and services.

He also said the Malawi government would submit its specific schedule of commitment before January 1, 2021.

The AfCFTA brings together 55 African countries with a combined population of 1,2 billion people and a GDP of more than US$3,4 trillion.

Minister Gwengwe also dismissed claims that the trade pact would negatively affect Malawi’s economy, and pledged that the government would continue engaging all stakeholders to ensure a smooth and beneficial transition to the new regime.

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