Government has disclosed that irregularities in some of the provisions of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement have contributed to the delay for Malawi to ratify the convention.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha said for instance, government wants clarification on the Rules of Origin before it can commit to the Treaty.
He was speaking in Lilongwe during the eleventh meeting of the Tripartite Committee of Senior Officials for Trade, Customs, Finance, Economic matters and Home Affairs.
Mwanamvekha has since asked the committee to move with speed in addressing the irregularities.
“There are some technicalities that they have to discuss in this meeting including issues to do with Rules of Origin which currently are not clear and also issues of funding because some of the programmes have delayed because of this challenge,” Mwanamvekha said.
He emphasised that the TFTA is critical to boosting economic growth in Malawi through increased trade opportunities with other member countries.
“In terms of trade, we are doing very well. I know people have been talking about the gap between imports and exports widening but what it means is that our trade is improving but is growing at a slower pace than the region so our exports are increasing from time to time but it will take a bit of time for us to match the region,” Mwanamvekha said.
In a separate interview, Director of Trade Customs and Monetary Affairs in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Francis Mangeni emphasised that the meeting would discuss the issues the minister raised.
Mengeni acknowledged that there are a number of grey areas that need to be looked into.
“There are actually just four issues here, the first is on the possibility of issuing a Visa on arrival to people doing business, so countries have to agree on this but, in Malawi, that is already happening. The second is to issue multiple entries Visas. Currently, the draft provides for three years but there are suggestions to increase the validity period,” Mengeni said.
He further pointed out dispute settlement as one area that will be looked at to provide a common ground to businesses to lodge complaints when they feel they were not treated fairly in any of the member countries.
Mengeni, however was quick to mention that the block has significantly improved trading among member countries which in turn has improved many of the economies that are party to the pact.
So far, only eight African countries have ratified the TFTA agreement which was launched in 2015.
The TFTA encompasses three regional blocks; the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
When fully implemented, the TFTA will create a large market with 626 million customers.