Closing 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 Center, 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 express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Heads of State and Government for the valuable contributions made to the deliberations of the Second SADC-COMESA-EAC Tripartite Summit.
Indeed, the outcomes and decisions endorsed by the collective leadership of Africa, covering three regional economic communities gathered here today is a cause for celebration.
Your interventions and the decisions endorsed by this esteemed forum have culminated in a clearly defined programme of work designed to underpin and give strategic direction to the activities of this unique formation in the years to come.
It is a tangible demonstration of the collective will and commitment that exists across regional boundaries in advancing progress towards the ultimate goal of an Economic Community of Africa.
As such, I wish to convey a special word of gratitude to my brother, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Namibia as Summit Chair for his wise leadership, expressed in the exemplary facilitation of the Summit Agenda discussions and in steering these to a successful conclusion.
The implementation of the Summit decisions of the inaugural Tripartite Summit in Kampala, Uganda in 2008, leading to the official launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations today is the sum of three years of dedicated preparatory work and committed efforts by the three Secretariats in partnership with Member States.
This is an important milestone. Also critical is our endorsement of the Tripartite FTA negotiating principles, processes and institutional framework, the Tripartite Roadmap and the Declaration launching negotiations on the Tripartite FTA.
These instruments provide an enabling platform to guide the negotiations on trade in goods.
In this regard, we believe the time-frames stipulated in the Tripartite FTA Roadmap for the conclusion of the first phase of the trade in goods negotiations over a three-year period are both realistic and reasonable.
This is based on the experiences of our sub-regions in respect to regional FTA, EPA and WTO negotiating environments.
A positive outcome on the first phase of the trade in goods negotiations will provide a solid foundation for the trade in services and other trade related issues forming part of the built-in agenda for future negotiations.
We welcome the fact that the Tripartite FTA Negotiating Principles provide for a number of key principles, in particular that the negotiations should be Member or Partner State driven.
Welcome as well the principle of variable geometry will apply and that decisions shall be taken by consensus.
It recognises the systemic development challenges we all face as countries and as regions within the Tripartite FTA configuration.
In particular, these challenges include uneven and unequal development between countries and regions, economies of scale, trade integration, supply chain and manufacturing output constraints as well as infrastructure limitations.
All these have severely constrained our efforts at growing intra-Africa and inter-regional trade.
These challenges will need to be urgently addressed in the framework of the Tripartite FTA if we are to succeed in raising the current levels of intra-Africa trade from the low base of 10%.
We applaud the decision by Summit to address the challenges associated with the facilitation of the movement of business people across Regional Economic Communities, together with infrastructure development as two separate tracks. Both deserve priority attention within the broader Tripartite Agenda.
Equally, the decision by Summit that the Tripartite FTA integration process be anchored by the three pillars of market integration; infrastructure development; and industrial development is significant.
This will locate these core challenges at the centre of our economic integration and development agendas.
In this context, we therefore recognise the critical importance of infrastructure development as an enabler for industrial growth and development.
Regional and continental infrastructure development is of fundamental importance to the realisation of Africa’s economic growth and development imperatives, and to ensure greater trade integration and global market space.
We therefore applaud the positive progress on the NEPAD North-South Corridor infrastructure Project that cuts across many of our countries and regions. We urge the three regions to work together better to make the infrastructure project succeed.
As regional leaders we carry a particular responsibility to serve as champions in driving industrial and infrastructure development both at the regional and continental levels.
We welcome also the participation of the private sectors and civil society in our respective countries and sub-regions in the Tripartite TFA process.
They will constitute the key drivers, in partnership with governments, in robustly growing inter-regional and intra-regional trade to the greater benefit of our Continent.
In the months to come, we urge our ministers and senior officials to commence the work programmes agreed to by Summit with vigour and a renewed sense of urgency.
I wish you all a safe return home.
We trust that your stay in South Africa was both enjoyable and memorable and that it has served to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and friendship existing between our respective sister countries and regions.
I thank you.