AU says Africa’s decision to create free trade area is commendable

By Lucy Nwachukwu

Abuja –   African Union’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchang, says Africa is doing the right thing in creating the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in spite of the present retreat from multilateralism.

Muchanga said this in a statement issued by the Head of Communication and Events, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Mr Obi Emekekwue on Wednesday in Abuja.

While delivering a keynote address at the ongoing Afreximbank Trade and Development Seminar Series, Muchanga said the physical deglobalisation in the world had created a need for strong regional economies.

He noted that although the World Trade Organisation was failing to come up with new multilateral trade agreements, more countries still applied to join the body and no country was clamouring to leave it.

According to him, the vision of the CFTA to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens represented a dynamic force in the international system.

“With more than 1.2 billion people, a growing middle class, over 3.4 trillion dollars in aggregate GDP, and being one of the 10 largest economies in the world in aggregate GDP, the CFTA is a commercially viable undertaking.

“It has the potential to be among the largest free trade areas in the world in terms of population.

“It will bring about economic stability and growth in Africa and will address issues of trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity and trade information on the continent.

“The CFTA will also tackle the challenge of trade related infrastructure, trade finance and factor market integration, including free movement of people, free movement of capital and right of establishment,’’ Muchanga added.

The statement also quoted the President, Afreximbank, Mr Benedict Oramah as saying “the timely conclusion of negotiations for the CFTA has confirmed the commitment of African leaders to pursuing regional integration’’.

Oramah noted that with the CFTA coming on stream in a period when multilateralism and plurilateralism were under attack in many regions, questions had been raised about its future under such an environment.

“While the speed with which the CFTA has been concluded appears to indicate Africa’s preference for unity, we have to be mindful.

“This is because the attainment of the ultimate goal of the CFTA of strengthening Africa’s role in global trade may be more difficult to achieve under the wave of isolationism sweeping across other markets,” Oramah warned.

The Afreximbank Trade and Development Seminar Series were introduced in 2016 to promote excellence in African trade.

It is aimed at developing and providing a platform to articulate African trade and development finance issues, while enhancing the role of the bank as a global player in development economics, trade and development finance.

The seminar series also provides an opportunity for global leaders in the business and development community, experts, diplomats, leading policy makers and representatives from the academic community to share perspectives on African trade and economic development issues. (NAN)

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