A group of experts from seven African regional economic commissions (RECs), with the participation of representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), African Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and UNCTAD, along with academia, research institutions and civil society, met in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, to discuss the possible structure and content of a Continental Free Trade Area agreement (CFTA).
Hosted by the African Development Bank, the meeting reviewed the RECs' experience of trade liberalization and potential lessons for the CFTA. In their opening statements, representatives from the AUC, ADB and ECA all emphasized the importance of the meeting in relation to the technical preparations for the CFTA negotiations. It was noted, particularly, that the CFTA is a huge and complex institutional and legal structure, which is expected to include all the 54 African Union member states.
The representatives emphasized that for the CFTA to be established by the target date of 2017, negotiations will need to be conducted effectively and concluded expeditiously. It was within the framework of providing technical support to the CFTA Negotiating Forum and facilitating the process of the CFTA negotiations, therefore, that the CFTA Task Force requested input from the expert group.
The group agreed on a proposed outline of the CFTA agreement and follow-up work to prepare a working draft for an initial exchange of views ahead of the first substantive CFTA trade-negotiating forum in April 2016.