The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) – one of the key implementing institutions of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, is challenging Ghana to put aside its national interest where and when necessary in ensuring the wider success of the agreement, where there is a conflict of interest between both objectives.
Speaking during a three-day consultative National Conference held in Accra last week, the Coordinator of ATPC, Dr. David Luke noted that winning the bid to host the agreement also means that Ghana has a dual role to play in the process.
That is in terms of being a player or beneficiary in the agreement it might want to ensure that its national interest is safeguarded; but it also behooves on Ghana as host of the secretariat to ensure that the new free trade zone works effectively to realise the policy’s wider success even at cost to the pursuit of Ghana’s own national interest.
“This is like the role that Switzerland has in the World Trade Organization [WTO] where Switzerland is a player in the WTO and looks after its interests, but the country is always there to make sure that the interest of WTO membership progresses”, Dr. Luke said.
Move beyond free trade area to cost of union
Meanwhile, according to the African Trade Policy Centre, the second phase of the AfCFTA agreement is important in the sense that African countries will need to move beyond a free trade area to cost of union in terms of common external trade tariffs.
This, according to the Centre stems from the fact that there is a preferential agreement that deals in goods. However, the AfCFTA agreement goes beyond only goods to include services such as protocol of free movement of persons.
Moving beyond a free trade area to cost of union technically implies that African countries have to align their external tariffs so that their bilateral partners cannot have better deals than those which have been instituted among member countries themselves.
“Whiles we have negotiated a preferential area among ourselves, each individual African country is still free to negotiate bilateral deals with third parties, and these deals could provide roots into preferential area. In order to safeguard against that, we will have to move at some stage”, Dr. Luke stressed.
The conference was designed to focus the country’s collective efforts on specific actions and policies needed to be taken in Ghana to implement the AfCFTA agreement. The theme was on Harnessing the Benefits of the AfCFTA for a Ghana Beyond Aid.