Good progress on Tripartite FTA
African high-level officials from the Southern African Development Community indicated during the recent SADC Summit that negotiations for the establishment of a free- trade area spanning three major regional economic communities in Africa – The COMESA, the EAC, and the SADC – have progressed well and could conclude by the end of this year.
The three economic communities are now finalising the first phase of negotiations, which cover primary FTA issues of tariff liberalisation, rules of origin, customs procedures and simplification of customs documentation, and transit procedures among other issues.
Sources indicate that negotiations for the second of the three phrases is about to start and will focus on issues like trade in services and other trade-related issues such as intellectual property rights, competition policy, development and competitiveness.
India increases duty free coverage for LDCs
On 20 August, India revised its duty-free market access scheme for least developed countries (LDCs) in order to increase trade with the African region.
"In order to expand trade with Africa, India has recently amended its Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) scheme to cover around 98 per cent of the tariff lines," said, Indian Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher.
India launched the DFTP scheme for LDCs in 2008. This DFTP scheme is open to all 49 LDCs, including 22 African LDCs.
At this stage the broadening of the Indian preferential scheme towards African LDCs could be a move to seek support from the African group on WTO issues, declare some sources. According to Rajeev Kher, the Indian stand at the WTO deliberations on the trade facilitation agreement was supported by the G-33 and endorsed by 46 countries, including several countries from Africa.
UN group agrees on SDG text
The UN working group charged with outlining a proposed set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted an outcome document on 20 July.
The recommended goals will now be sent to the UN General Assembly for consideration as part of the discussions around the post-2015 development agenda.
The final 23-page document maintains the 17 goals outlined in a revised “zero draft” – released by the working group’s co-chairs in early July to serve as a basis for this final meeting – with 169 targets. Sixty-two of these can be classed as “means of implementation,” (MoI) or the methods to achieve each goal.
While much of the outcome document’s focus and language remains unchanged from the “revised” zero draft released a few weeks ago, certain areas have been altered to reflect the latest negotiations. Many targets are more specific, for example, covering several areas of action.
Trade-related considerations have featured throughout the OWG discussions and are present in the new outcome document.
LDC submit request on services
At the end of July, the WTO’s poorest members, known as the Least Developed Country (LDC) Group, submitted a collective request regarding the preferential treatment they would like to see for their services and service suppliers. The move comes seven months after the global trade body’s ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, where members agreed to take steps for bringing this “services waiver” into operation.
The LDC services waiver, as it is referred to in trade circles, was initially an outcome of the 2011 WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland. The waiver, as outlined in the 2011 Geneva ministerial decision, releases WTO members from their legal obligation to provide non-discriminatory treatment to all trading partners – as outlined in Article II of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) – when granting trade preferences to LDCs. The waiver is initially set to last 15 years from the date of adoption, 17 December 2011.
According to sources familiar with the 21 July document, the request calls for the fulfilment of WTO members’ past commitments toward giving LDCs special priority in services sectors and modes of supply.