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Tunisia Set to Trade under the COMESA Free Trade Area

The number of countries participating in the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) is set to rise as the North African country set to join at the end of this year. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is a free trade area with 21 Member States stretching from Tunisia to Eswatini. 

Tunisia can now export its products to 15 member States of the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) without paying import duties after completing the process of developing and issuing the legal instruments for trading.

In a communication by the Tunisia Minister of Trade Hon. Mohamed Msilini to COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe, Tunisia declared it was now ready to implement the COMESA FTA. “I am pleased to inform you that the Tunisian Customs Authority and the chambers of commerce and industry, as designated issuing authorities are now completely ready to implement the COMESA Free Trade Area,” Hon. Msilini stated.

At the same time, the minister forwarded the legal document published by the Tunisia Customs authority on the implementation of the COMESA FTA as well as the final adopted template of the COMESA Certificate of Origin to be used by the Tunisian operators when exporting to COMESA member States. “This is excellent news and a result of great teamwork by all who were involved,” the SG said as she congratulated the teams involved in the negotiation process.

The Secretariat will subsequently inform the rest of the member States that they can now trade with Tunisia as an FTA member and share with them the legal instrument and sample certificates.

Consequently, the Secretariat will provide Tunisia with the official stamps and the signatories of each of the FTA member States issuing authorities in order to facilitate the COMESA exports entry to the Tunisian territory.

Minister Msilini said: “As for the beginning of this new era of enhanced partnership, we deeply rely on your usual support to ensure its success for the benefit of all our countries, especially by ensuring a smooth resolution of the technical and practical challenges that may arise for the Tunisian exporters.”

Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. In February 2016, the country formally wrote to the Secretary General making enquiries on joining. The country joined COMESA in July 2018, signed the COMESA Free Trade Agreement, ratified the Agreement and deposited the ratification instruments in a span one and half years.

However, Tunisia products will now access the markets of the other FTA members. These are: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt,  Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tunisia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The history of COMESA began in December 1994 when it was formed to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed from the earliest days of 1981. The commission launched its Free Trade Area in 2000.

Trade and market integration have had a central role in the evolvement of COMESA given its background as a Preferential Trade Area (PTA) for Eastern and Southern Africa. The previous foundation has therefore supported the establishment of institutions that foster trade liberalization and trade facilitation programmes.

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