COMESA: A case study

Mauritius - 30 May 2018

The last three decades have witnessed a proliferation of regional initiatives which have come about in view of the slow progress achieved at the level of the World Trade Organization (WTO), particularly after the debacle of the Doha Round. The underlying motives for an increased willingness to become a member of a regional bloc reside in the various benefits which potentially could be unlocked including trade creation, the provision of a platform from which to tackle regional issues and increasing bargaining power for individual member countries since negotiations at WTO level are usually done through a regional trading bloc. The situation is no different in the case of African countries. There have been a number of initiatives by member countries towards promulgating regional trade agreements (RTAs) with a view to fast-tracking trade liberalization measures to foster increased trade both within the regional groupings and also with non-members. However, despite their best intentions and despite the implementation of numerous trade liberalization measures in member countries, the expected benefits from such groupings have yet to materialize in the case of African RTAs. There are many reasons for this including elements of multiple membership, similarities in countries’ exports and the non-negligible detrimental impact of non-tariff measures. In view of the above, the aim of this chapter is to provide a descriptive analysis of one of Africa’s most important RTAs, namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) through a review of its performance since its inception and a discussion of the impact of the establishment of the continental free trade area (FTA) on its probable future performance

Author(s): B. Seetanah, R. V. Sannassee and S. Fauzel