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Title: Implications of the COMESA Free Trade Area and the Proposed Customs Union
Contributor(s): Karingi, Stephen Njuguna (author); Siriwardana, Mahinda  (author); Ronge, Eric E (author)
Publication Date: 2010
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Abstract: Trade liberalisation and economic integration are central to the success of the Treaty establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional trading bloc. COMESAs liberalisation and integration programme boasts of a free trade area (FTA) launched in the year 2000 in which at least half of the twenty member states are currently participating. The regional blocs integration programme is envisaged to be taken further through the formation of a customs union via a common external tariff (CET). This study provides a quantitative assessment of the likely implications of the COMESA Treaty to establish an FTA and then form a customs union. The focus of the analysis is on the implications of the accompanying trade liberalisation on macroeconomic aggregates including those that have a bearing on poverty reduction; industry structure; welfare; and the trade diversion versus trade creation question. The study uses a multi-country multi-commodity applied general equilibrium model - GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) - in its analysis. The study provides empirical evidence relevant to the policy debate on the following questions. First, what countries gain and which lose based on the impacts on GDP, employment and other macroeconomic aggregates from the FTA and a customs union. Second, based on the empirical evidence of the resulting industry structure from the FTA and customs union, what can be said on the question of whether COMESA should proceed at its current speed to be a customs union considering that some of its members are also members of the South African Development Cooperation (SADC), which also aims to move to a free trade area although at a reduced speed than COMESA. Third, using the simulation results of the implications of the FTA and customs union on value added in different sectors, can the study show what sectors lose and what sectors gain for each of the five COMESA member countries. Fourth, what are the welfare implications for the five COMESA member countries and which of them gains and which lose from the FTA and the customs union? Fifth, how does the formation of COMESA FTA and customs union affect trade expansion through the trade creation and trade diversion effects? The study concludes that COMESA is better of with free trade as there are positive economic gains for all regions. The regional bloc should move to liberalise faster to realise the gains. While some countries will benefit more, the liberalisation policies would need to be undertaken with long-run outcomes in mind. Second, the economic gains from the liberalisation process will need to be placed in perspective of the entire political and strategic interests of different member nations in COMESA. Policies to distribute gains equally and efficiently might also need to be formulated. Third, it is clear from the study that COMESA seems better off with a customs union. While FTA gives good outcomes, the customs union must be preferred. Finally, the results from both the FTA and customs union implementation are clear that trade diversion will not take welfare gains away.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Trade and Development: Focus on Free Trade Agreements, p. 1-42
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers
Place of Publication: New York, United States of America
ISBN: 9781607416401
Field of Research (FOR): 140210 International Economics and International Finance
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Series Name: Global Economic Studies series
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter

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