The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the China Ministry of Commerce to collaborate to establish an Expert Group on Economic Cooperation.
The expert group will collaborate in areas that will include experience-sharing on intellectual property rights, customs procedures, digital trade and competition policy; exchange of concepts, policies and sharing progress on the institutional capacity and implementation of the AfCFTA.
Also China will share information on its foreign trade and investment facilitation cooperation; enhance cooperation on trade and investment in the context of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC); offer support towards the building of the AfCFTA and support the AfCFTA Secretariat in the execution of its mandate and facilitate dialogue between the AfCFTA Secretariat, the AfCFTA State Parties and the relevant Chinese departments and institutions in collaboration with the African Union (AU) representative office in Beijing.
The MoU was signed at a virtual ceremony last Friday.
The Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr Wamkele Mene, who signed for his side from his base in Accra, said, “While all these areas will be beneficial to the work of the Secretariat, the aspects on intellectual property rights, investment, competition policy and digital trade would be particularly critical for the forthcoming AfCFTA Phase II negotiations. “
He said China had made tremendous progress in the knowledge economy, where innovation was the driver for economic growth and intellectual property was the anchor of innovation.
Against that background, he said, China, had the experience to support the AfCFTA processes in those key areas.
Mr Mene noted that since the establishment of the AfCFTA Secretariat in February 2020, China had been actively involved in the work of the Secretariat and provided financial assistance through the African Union to the Secretariat.
“The AfCFTA, therefore, provides the framework for us to continue the China-Africa collaboration.
“ In this regard, we envision several opportunities for cooperation, including intellectual property rights, customs cooperation, digital trade and competition policy, among others,” he said
Emphasising China’s experience in investment in Africa in the context of FOCAC, the AfCFTA boss said, “ We believe that this MoU presents an important platform for strengthening our relations, thereby contributing to the achievement of the objectives of the AfCFTA.
“China is a strong partner to Africa and has provided Africa with significant development and investment support over the past decade. China continues to invest in infrastructure and industrial projects in Africa via its Belt and Road Initiative, and has opened up its market of 1.4 billion consumers to African products.,” he said.
The Secretary-General said the AfCFTA would produce new trading and investment opportunities for China in various economic sectors, including agro-processing, automobiles and financial technology.
Mr Mene indicated that the signing of the memorandum would chart the course for a stronger, closer and more longstanding partnership between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Ministry of Commerce of China.
He said China and Africa shared common aspirations rooted in mutual cooperation.
The Chinese team at the ceremony were the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Commerce, Qian Keming: China’s Ambassador to the African Union, Liu Yuxi, and the Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs, Lin Zhiyong