CAPE TOWN, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- President Jacob Zuma on Monday reaffirmed South Africa's commitment to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), as envisioned by the African Union (AU).
South Africa takes the CFTA negotiations very seriously, as the intervention has the potential to contribute positively to economic growth and development in Africa, Zuma said while answering questions raised by Members of Parliament in the National Assembly.
"Our commitment to the CFTA is evidenced by the fact that South Africa hosted the meeting of the AU Assembly of Heads of States that launched the CFTA negotiations," Zuma said.
The AU decided in 2012 to establish the CETA by October 2017, and the decision was reconfirmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2016.
The aim is to enhance intra-regional trade and ensure that African countries trade with each other on better terms than third countries. The CFTA is also one of the priorities of Agenda 2063 set out by the AU.
Apparently referring to concerns over little progress in establishing the CFTA, Zuma said the AU Assembly of Heads of States receives regular feedback on progress.
Each negotiating party makes its own sovereign assessment about the benefits of entering into the CFTA negotiations and whether they potentially outweigh the negative considerations that arise, said Zuma.
In South Africa, the CFTA negotiations are receiving the highest political attention, Zuma said.
He stressed that his country would provide the necessary guidance to speedily move towards the conclusion of the CFTA.
"To demonstrate our commitment to the expeditious finalization of the CFTA negotiations, South Africa recently hosted meetings of the CFTA technical working groups and the negotiating forum from August 20 to September 2, 2017, in Durban," the president said.
Further, South Africa has made specific proposals towards the conclusion of the CFTA negotiations, he added.
South Africa has advanced the development integration approach to the CFTA that combines market integration, industrial and infrastructure development, according to Zuma.
This approach ensures that Africa addresses the fundamental constraints to intra-Africa trade and Africa's integration into the global economy, which include productive and supply-side constraints, Zuma said.
South Africa supports free trade agreements that expressly recognize differentials in levels of development, and accordingly create differentiated obligations, he noted.
"South Africa is therefore committed to ensuring that the CFTA benefits all AU member states," Zuma said.
South Africa also defends the retention of policy space in any free trade agreement for the advancement of national development objectives such as industrialization, access to affordable public health and the introduction of other development advancing measures in all free trade negotiations that South Africa is party to, including the CFTA, Zuma said.