Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism director of trade Christina Zakeyu Chatima has said Malawi will only ratify the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) when the rules of product origin are fair for the country’s private sector.
Speaking at the a consultative meeting on the TFTA in Lilongwe last week, Chatima said government will not be willing to ratify the TFTA until the private sector is convinced that the playing field has been levelled.
“The information that is there shows that we have not yet concluded the rules of origin and the rules of origin that have been adopted are product-specific that are quite stringent and they are not favourable to most countries, including Malawi. What we are saying is that there is need for trade flexibility for most of the countries who are negotiating this particular agreement,” she said.
In his presentation, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira observed that there are many challenges to be resolved before Malawi ratifies the TFTA.
“Infrastructure within the region is still in deficit but we know that for intra-regional trade to occur there must be connectivity between different States. Exchange of goods and services takes place via connectedness.
“Enabling infrastructure, therefore, must be put in place at any cost. How well Malawi is connected to the rest of the region, or indeed, what plans are in the offing in this regard, will determine whether Malawi stands to benefit from this arrangement if ratified,” he said.
Meanwhile, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) director of trade customs and monetary affairs Francis Mangeni said the TFTA will roll out if half of the 27 member countries will ratify it by April next year.
The TFTA was launched in June 2015 by the Third Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government after more than three years of intense negotiations.
It is anchored on three pillars, namely market integration, industrial development and infrastructure development.
The TFTA was established following the coming together of States from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to remove duplication and overlaps by other countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and EAC.
The TFTA has a population of 600 million people and gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion.