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Tripartite Council of Ministers finally adopts the MCBRTA

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The Tripartite Council of Ministers, at its 5th meeting of March 29, 2023, adopted a large series of legal instruments related to trade, customs and transports. Among them, the Tripartite Agreement on Movement of Businesspersons (an Agreement aimed at relaxing the visa requirements for business people and other professionals that travel in the region), annexes on elimination of import duties, trade remedies, rules of origin, dispute settlement mechanism and the TFTA protocol on competition policy. Moreover, the Tripartite Council adopted guidelines, manuals and working procedures on rules of origin and technical barriers to trade.

Another set of instruments adopted by the Council, has the specific purpose of harmonizing cross-border road transport harmonization in the Tripartite region by introducing a uniform regulation that should replace the cage of bilateral and multi-country road transport agreements in which cross-border transport is encapsulated. This regulation is made up of two multilateral instruments: a Vehicle Load Management Agreement (VLMA), and the Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement (MCBRTA). A series of model laws on Vehicle Load Management, Cross Border Road Transport,  Road Traffic, Road Traffic and Transport Transgression,  and Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Road complement it. Inter-REC cooperation initiatives aimed at harmonizing or promoting convergence of regulation within multi-regional territorial contexts, are encouraged by the Treaty of Abuja (1991), the legal instrument that provides the legal basis for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Next steps will include the ratification by the Tripartite member States of the above Agreements and the development of national plans for their implementation. MCBRTA signatory States are also required to introduce enabling regulations in their respective territories to effectively implement the Tripartite legal instruments. This is expected to lead to more liberalized transport market, which should led, in turn, to reduced transport costs and improved trade between Tripartite countries.

In adopting the road transport instruments, the Council applied the principle of variable geometry which allowsimmediate implementation for those countries that are ready, while those that are not will ‘jump in’ when they will be ready.

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