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Seven countries including Ethiopia have rejected the decision taken at the 29th ordinary session of the African Union Assembly regarding the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), after considering its effect on the country’s economy, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said. The AU summit which ended on Tuesday June 4, emphasized the need for member states to implement the first phase of the CFTA by the end of this year, through attending to the issue of tariff barriers.
“The CFTA will bring 54 African countries with a combined population of more than one billion and a combined gross domestic product of more than USD 3 trillion,” an African Union publication said.
Hailemariam said in a press conference that seven countries including Ethiopia did not agree to fully opening their doors for the continental free trade area. Instead they want to do this step-by-step, as it requires readiness on the part of the countries concerned.
Ethiopia, Djibouti Rwanda and Sudan did not agree to the CFTA timeframe, as, confirmed by their officials, but countries with better development status insisted on the soonest implementation of the CFTA, which they said will boost the continent’s intra-Africa trade to 52 percent from the current 13 percent.
Ethiopia feels it needs to first create a conducive atmosphere, so that it is able to comply with the new situation, according to Hailemariam.
Ethiopia believes that it is proper to open its doors to the free market gradually, since its economy is not ready yet. “We took a stand on sensitive issues that would bring a negative impact on the country and the people, and we are happy that this stand of ours has been accepted by other countries. Our decision is to work together and trade with our fellow African countries in areas other than the sensitive issues. We are also happy that our difference was respected,” he added.
Some 86 percent of the expected 90 percent of African countries have agreed on implementation the continental free trade area as envisaged by the AU.
The first phase of CFTA negotiations focuses on trade in goods and trade in services while the second phase will focus on competition, investment and intellectual property rights.
Convertibility of currency is also a long term objective of the CFTA.