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Africa's tripartite free trade area set for launch in June: SADC official

HARARE, April 27 (Xinhua) -- The long-awaited tripartite free trade area (TFTA) between three regional blocs in Africa will be launched on June 10 in Egypt, a senior official of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said Monday.

SADC executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax told delegates attending a SADC Council of Ministers meeting that the grand TFTA, initially scheduled for launch in June 2014, was now expected to be launched a year later.

"A tripartite FTA is expected to be launched during the 3rd Tripartite Summit to be held in Egypt on June 10, 2015," said Lawrence Tax.

The TFTA will bring together three regional groupings, namely SADC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the East African Community (EAC) to create Africa's largest integrated market so far.

It will benefit 600 million people in 26 African countries, or half of the African Union (AU) members, with a combined domestic product of about 1 trillion U.S. dollars.

To deepen regional integration and boost intra-Africa trade, AU heads of state and government in 2012 decided to establish the continental free trade area (CFTA) by 2017.

Lawrence Tax said negotiations on the CFTA will be launched in June 2015, and stressed the need for speedy finalization of the TFTA to enable adequate preparations at both national and regional levels for the forthcoming CFTA.

"The negotiations on the CFTA will be launched this coming June 2015, meaning that we will have only two years to complete the negotiations process that is expected to be complex, involving twice the size of the Tripartite membership, with eight AU recognised regional economic communities (RECs) and a negotiation menu that spans across trade in goods, services and trade related issues," she said.

The CFTA will bring together about 53 African nations with a combined population of close to a billion.

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