Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Saturday that Egypt “renews its commitment” to providing all forms of support to fellow African countries in order to ensure the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a statement by the cabinet said.
Madbouly made the comments in a speech while virtually attending the African Union’s (AU) 13th extraordinary summit on the AfCFTA between the AU’s heads of state on behalf of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
Madbouly said that Egypt welcomes the efforts made by president of Niger Mohamedou Issoufou to activate the AfCFTA, the Council of African Trade Ministers, and the Ministerial Council of the Free Trade Agreement, which have been in permanent session so as to accelerate the pace of agreement on technical sticking points.
He stressed the importance of reaching a consensus on the sticking points of the rules of origin by no later than the end of June 2021, and the need to adhere to the proposed timeframes for resolving these points in the first stage of negotiations.
Madbouly also highlighted the necessity of starting negotiations for the second phase on investment, competition protection and intellectual property, and to complete them according to the proposed timeframe in December 2021, the statement said.
The AfCFTA – which, when operational, will be the largest free trade bloc in the world – aims at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations, according to the AU.
“We affirm Egypt's firm conviction of the importance of liberalising trade between the countries of the continent in order to achieve the desired benefit of development efforts, which is reflected in our keenness to be at the forefront of the countries ratifying the agreement, and our calls for continental integration and regional integration,” the prime minister said.
This, he added, was evident in Egypt’s commitment during its presidency of the AU in 2019 to advance the agreement and launch its operational tools in an effort to bring about a qualitative shift in the rates of trade exchange between the countries of the continent.
The agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 in Rwanda’s Kigali, and it came into force in May 2019 during the Egyptian chairmanship of the AU.
To date, 33 African countries out of the 55 member states of the AU, have ratified the AfCFTA Legal Instrument, which is set to create an African market of 1.27 billion consumers with a cumulative GDP of around 2.3 to 3.4 trillion US dollars.
During his speech, Madbouly said that Egypt encourages the remaining member states of the AU that have not yet ratified the AfCFTA agreement to do so to fully activate it as soon as possible.