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COMESA Reiterates Commitment to Trade Liberalisation
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA*) agreed at a recent summit to eliminate non-tariff barriers and end trade-disrupting conflicts, touting trade liberalisation as an important step towards socio-economic integration.
Heads of state from the bloc's 20 member countries met in Djibouti 15-16 November for their annual meeting on trade promotion and regional integration. The group plans to continue its path towards trade liberalisation, which saw the establishment of a free trade area among some of its members in 2000. However, some member states have voiced concerns over revenue losses and other problems in the integration process. This year's summit introduced a COMESA Fund to compensate countries for losses incurred due to trade liberalisation, as well as to encourage regional infrastructure development.
The group plans to expand the free trade area, with two to three countries expected to join the 13 current member states by next year. The COMESA Fund will assist smaller economies in adjusting to the demands of liberalised trade. Also on the agenda are plans to launch a customs union in 2008 and a full monetary union involving the use of a common currency issued by a common central bank in 2025.
Progess was also made towards the African Union's Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), an initiative that focuses on increasing agricultural production and trade to promote development in rural communities. COMESA leaders urged each others' governments to make national agricultural policies consistent with the programme, in order to support national and regional food self-sufficiency. Member states were also asked to implement policies that would promote cross-border trade by small-scale producers and traders.
In an attempt to spur private sector development, the COMESA summit ordered the finalisation of a framework agreement for accelerating the harmonisation of investment rules across the region, to establish what will be called the COMESA Common Investment Area (CCIA).
Next year's summit will be held in Nairobi, Kenya.
*COMESA Member States include: Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.