AU urges dispute settlement endeavors as AfCFTA edges closer to effect

ADDIS ABABA,
May 14, (Xinhua/GNA) – The African Union (AU) has stressed the need to boost
African countries’ capacity on the settlement of trade and investment disputes
as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) edges closer to entry into
force.

“It is of
paramount importance to provide capacity in both Investor-State Dispute
Settlement (ISDS) and state-to-state dispute to member states as they embark on
the road to greater intra-Africa trade as well as increased trade activities
with third countries outside the continent,” the AU said in a statement.

The 55-member
pan-African bloc, which is organizing training on the settlement of disputes to
harness the continental free trade pact effectively, stressed that
“interactive training will help countries further explore means of
encouraging African Arbitral Institutions towards the development of a
homegrown solution.”

The AU has set
a timeframe to activate the AfCFTA on May 30 after Sierra Leone and the
Saharawi Republic deposited their instruments of ratification to the AU
Commission.

Regarded as the
world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries, the AfCFTA covers
more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of
2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

Once
operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level
of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to
the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Noting the need
to further strengthen African countries’ capacity on settlement of disputes
toward successfully realizing the free trade pact, the AU stressed that one of
the main objectives “is to establish a mechanism for the settlement of
disputes concerning the rights and obligations of state parties.”

The AfCFTA
“stipulates a state-to-state dispute mechanism to resolve differences that
may arise once the free trade accord goes operational.”

The AU said
arbitration of disputes under the AfCFTA is “similar to that of the World
Trade Organization (WTO).”

It, however,
stressed that “the experience of African states at the WTO Dispute
Settlement Body is minimal as African countries have not had any case as
respondents or complainants at this body.” 

According to
figures from the AU, there have been only five cases where African countries
have participated as third parties under the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, two
of which as part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group.

The AfCFTA,
which was signed by 44 African countries when it was launched in Kigali,
capital of Rwanda, in March 2018, aspires to create a tariff-free continent
that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, spur
industrialization and create more jobs. 

GNA

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