Training workshop on trade in services negotiations for AU-CFTA concludes

aucThe Training Workshop on Trade in Services Negotiations for AU-CFTA Negotiators concluding today. The training workshop which was officially opened by H.E. Mr. Oumar Sarr, the Minister of Trade in Senegal was attended by the AU Francophone countries as well as by the partners of the African Union (AU). The general objective of the training workshop was to build the capacity of services. Trade negotiators in Africa to effectively benefit from trade in services opportunities at bi-lateral, regional and multilateral levels, but most importantly to prepare for the CFTA Negotiations on Services that were launched in June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa during AU Summit. The workshop provided a forum to share experiences of successful services exports and brain storm on a strategy for CFTA Services Negotiations.

The training workshop is part of follow-up measures being undertaken by the African Union Commission (AUC) to enhance the understanding and negotiation skills of African services trade negotiators in preparation for negotiations that would take place subsequent to the June 2015 AU Summit decision to launch negotiations on the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which are expected to be concluded in 2017.

Trade negotiators from 28 AU Francophone member states benefitted from training provided by AUC officials, international, regional and national experts in an intensive workshop on trade in services negotiations in Dakar, Senegal, from 7-11 December 2015.

The training workshop aimed at capacity development of the AU Member States’ negotiators in the area of trade in services in order to support negotiations of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreements. The main focus of the workshop was to introduce the participants to:

The importance of Trade in Services to the economy;
The potential for export of services within the region and globally;
Treaty obligations of AU Member States under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services;
Best practices for negotiating services in other regional trade agreements.

Participants also examined the experiences in services development and liberalization of regional integration groupings in Africa, such as ECOWAS and SADC.

Participants learned about the importance of services trade in African development, services negotiations at the global and regional levels, and possible options and approaches to services negotiations at the pan-African level, including in sensitive sectors such as labour mobility. An overview on AUC Frameworks on Services and Implications on CFTA-Services Negotiations was presented during the training workshop. Several national and regional experiences of successful services from African regional economic communities were shared by high-ranking officials.

The Trade and Industry Department in AUC presented a background on the CFTA process, including the AU Assembly decision mandating Member States to negotiate the agreement; the negotiating principles, institutional arrangements for negotiations, and terms of reference for CFTA negotiating forum; an indicative roadmap for the negotiations and conclusion of the agreement; and progress that has been attained so far in the run up to the negotiations.

Experts from AUC, the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (TRALAC), International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), Member States, and other international experts shared their insights and experiences with the participants and other independent experts.

The weeklong Training Workshop concluded with the presentation of Certificates of Participation to the participants by the Director of Trade in the Ministry of Trade of Senegal. In his closing remarks, the representative of the African Union Commission highlighted that capacity building is a critical component of the CFTA negotiations work program and future trainings will be targeted at sectoral experts, members of the private sector, parliamentarians and other relevant stakeholders.