Welcome Remarks by His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa at the SADC-COMESA-EAC Tripartite Heads of State and Government Summit Meeting, Venue: Sandton Sun Convention Centre, South Africa, Date: 12 June 2011
Your Majesty, King Mswati III, Chair of COMESA;
Your Excellency, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Chair of SADC;
Your Excellency, President Pierre Nkurunziza, Chair of EAC;
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government of SADC COMESA and EAC Member States;
Honourable Deputy Ministers;
May I take this opportunity to welcome Your Excellencies, the Heads of State and Government and your delegations to this, the Second SADC-COMESA-EAC Tripartite Summit.
It is indeed an honour for me to host this historic gathering on South African soil.
Our deliberations in the coming days will take place under the expert stewardship of our sister nation, Namibia, as the current SADC Chair.
It is an equal privilege to host an event of this importance on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.
Yesterday, 11th of June was a sad day for our country as we laid to rest our mother of the nation, Mrs Albertina Sisulu.
This distinguished revolutionary dedicated her entire adult life to fighting for freedom, justice and human dignity. We know that you share our pain and thank you for your support.
This weekend we are celebrating the first anniversary of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup which kicked off on the 11th of June 2010, for the first time on South African soil.
Let me reiterate our sincere gratitude to you for the support which enabled us to successfully host an event of that magnitude and silence the doomsayers.
We thank you, Your Excellencies for the support you provided in various ways.
We gather today as regional and continental leaders to reflect on progress made in advancing the goal of greater continental economic integration, towards the establishment of a Grand African Economic Community.
We meet fully conscious of the collective responsibility we bear towards Africa’s Founding Fathers to create a single continental market of real economic value.
We are pleased therefore to gather as regional leaders today to witness and oversee the official launch of the Tripartite FTA negotiations.
We applaud the substantial work undertaken by the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in partnership with Member States, since the inaugural Summit in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008.
That work gives content to the directive by the Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government on the expeditious establishment of a Tripartite Free Trade Area.
Programmes are being developed involving all three Regional Economic Communities, together with Member States, taking us a step further towards the establishment of the envisaged Tripartite Free Trade Area.
We further take note of the progress made towards the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Inter-Regional Cooperation and Integration between SADC, COMESA and EAC signed by the Chairpersons of the three Regional Economic Communities in January 2011.
We therefore meet on a high note, as a lot of progress is being made already.
Today we are to receive a progress report of the Tripartite Task Force on the status of the implementation of the decisions of the First Tripartite Summit, serving as a measure of our progress in advancing the goals of a Grand African Economic Free Trade Area.
In this regard, we expect to endorse a number of important documents that will inform the substance and pace of the negotiations in a COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite context in the years to come.
These include recommendations on the proposed Tripartite FTA negotiating principles, the processes and the institutional framework, the Tripartite Roadmap and the Declaration launching negotiations on the Tripartite FTA amongst other issues.
This is an important historic gathering. We meet in a time of global turbulence, framed by the uncertainty of a seemingly fragile world economic recovery and outlook.
We meet during a period rocked by a spate of devastating natural disasters in the greater Asia-Pacific region.
Challenges in our own continent remind us of the immense burden of responsibility we carry as African leaders, to bring about substantive improvements to the material wellbeing of all our citizens.
As such, we are compelled to create enabling environments for our economies to prosper and grow.
Sustainable economic growth and development will be essential if we are to support the creation of more sustainable livelihoods for our citizens and in particular our youth, through the provision of decent jobs and employment.
We therefore need to align developmental strategies and programmes aimed at poverty alleviation, under-development, food security and the like across national, regional and continental boundaries.
There is no single country that can prosper on its own. Our destinies are intertwined.
The Free Trade Area will certainly help us accelerate regional integration efforts aimed at ensuring that African countries trade with each other on better terms.
We need to be absolutely clear. Removing barriers to intra-African trade will in themselves not lead to the realisation of our full potential for growth and development.
We must simultaneously design interventions that will build and production capabilities to fully take advantage of more open regional markets.
We must therefore act purposefully to strengthen and identify competitive advantages in value added production and trade, including through the development of complementary cross-border value chains.
In this regard, I welcome the Tripartite Council decision to initiate work on industrialisation and economic diversification as a central pillar of the Tripartite Initiative.
As we embark on this work, we must redouble our efforts to build and rehabilitate the regional infrastructure that must underpin production and trade growth.
The work currently undertaken on the Nepad North-South road and rail infrastructure development corridor is vital and to ensure that the work proceeds expeditiously and contributes directly to growth and development in the region.
We rely on colleagues Heads of State and Government to provide oversight of the infrastructure work programme and its implementation to ensure success.
We can achieve greater competitive advantage through the Tripartite FTA arrangement.
This will enable us to take advantage of opportunities for enhanced levels of trade amongst ourselves and with both traditional partners and the emerging economies of the South.
The arrangement should also benefit our peoples. This we can do by making a concerted effort to remove obstacles to the movement of goods across borders.
This also includes improving the efficiency of transport infrastructure, documentation, and the overall administrative procedures associated with cross-border trade.
We must also develop and grow our regional production bases and diversify the products we trade. We have to shift from a predominant reliance on primary products to value added products.
This can be done through enhancing existing value chains and establishing new ones in support of manufacturing capabilities and the promotion of industrial development.
We express our appreciation to our Ministers for the sterling preparatory work done in tabling recommendations on the decisions to be taken by the Heads of State and Government in this Summit.
We also thank our Senior Officials for the technical work done in preparing for the Council and Summit deliberations that will take place over the next few days.
I wish you and your respective delegations fruitful discussions and a happy stay in the Republic of South Africa.
I trust that you have been extended all the necessary courtesies to make your stay a comfortable one.
I thank you.