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Malawi ratifies free trade instruments

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HERTZENBERG—Malawi is participating in
negotiations

Malawi is ready to submit its instruments of ratification for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to the African Union (AU), Capital Hill has said.

Times Business understands that the legal depository of all instruments of ratification would be submitted to the AU after the festive holiday.

Once this is done, Malawi would be among over 30 countries on the continent ready to trade under the pact, which is expected to be operationalised Friday.

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The trade agreement aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments within the African region.

The news, however, comes barely a week after some industry players complained of being kept in the dark and not consulted on moves regarding the pact.

But Trade Minister Sosten Gwengwe Wednesday said Malawi would be depositing the instruments for ratification following their signing by President Lazarus Chakwera on November 1 2020.

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He said the instruments were sent to the African Union Commission (AUC) through the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia early this month.

“We are reliably informed that an appointment with the AU has been booked to deposit the instruments immediately when the AU offices open after the festive holiday. The agreement allows 7 percent of products to be categorised under sensitive list and 3 percent under exclusion list and almost 231 products are under protection.

“These lists have been developed in consultation with the private sector and cover all essential products for Malawi. They will also be sent to AU secretariat and are subject to negotiations and therefore it would not be ideal at this moment to start disclosing as the negotiations have not yet started,” Gwengwe said.

Meanwhile, economists and industry and trade experts have urged local players to make the most of the pact.

The Polytechnic-based economist Betchani Tcheleni said the private sector had to be innovative if the country were to be competitive at the regional market.

“The government has created that enabler and it has tried to inform people about the agreement but it seems many of them are not interested in the agreement,” Tcheleni said.

In a separate interview, Professor of Economics at Chancellor College Ben Kalua said the country should have first built its capacity to compete with counterparts before committing to the deal.

South Africa-based trade law expert also who is Executive Director of Trade Law Centre Trudi Hertzenberg said, as the pact goes into effect, only AU member states that have ratified the AfCFTA will be able to trade under the agreement.

She said although Malawi has not yet ratified the agreement; it is participating in on-going negotiations and has already made a tariff offer.

“At the extra-ordinary summit which was held on December 5 2020, heads of State agreed that the negotiations on tariffs and rules of origin and sector commitments for the five priority services-sectors which are financial services, communication, tourism, transport, and professional services should be concluded by mid-2021,” Hertzenberg said.

Currently, 34 countries have ratified the agreement.

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