Parliament on Monday, approved the agreement between the Government of Ghana and the African Union (AU) for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat in Accra.
It follows the adoption of the AfCFTA by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, at its 10th Extra-ordinary Session, in March, 2018, in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the agreement presented at the plenary of Parliament, in Accra, said key provisions of the agreement required that Ghana, as the host country, provided at its own expense a secure, equipped and furnished permanent premises for the secretariat.
Amongst other requirements are that the secretariat shall have a legal personality with the capacity to enter into a contract, and acquire and dispose of movable and immovable property needed for its operations in accordance with the laws of Ghana.
It also requested for Ghana to provide a secured, equipped and furnished official residence for the Head of the Secretariat; and guarantee the inviolability of the premises of the Secretariat and the Secretariat shall be accorded diplomatic status.
“Officials of the secretariat and state parties to the AfCFTA agreement shall enjoy within the host country privileges and immunities as established by the General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the AU.
“Member states participating in the work of the secretariat and representatives of non-African States accredited to the secretariat shall be entitled to the same privileges and immunities as accorded to diplomatic envoys of comparable rank under international law,” the report added.
According to the report, all persons enjoying privileges and immunities in line with agreement are to comply with the laws and regulations of the Republic of Ghana.
“The secretariat shall freely purchase any currencies through authorised channels and hold and dispose of them, transfer its funds to or from the host country, and operate accounts in any currency.
“The secretariat is exempt from any direct or indirect taxes except for charges and taxes on public utility services including compulsory contributions to any social security scheme of the host country.
“General convention on the privileges and immunities of the OAU and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations shall be applicable to the Secretariat, its headquarters, properties, funds, assets, premises and facilities, officials of the secretariat, state parties to the AfCFTA agreement and persons performing missions for the secretariat,” it said.
Any dispute arising out of or in connection with the agreement, including any question regarding its validity or termination, the report said, shall be resolved amicably through diplomatic channels.
Disputes not resolved amicably within 90 days of instituting negotiations for the amicable resolution or such other time as the parties may mutually agree, the report indicated, shall be referred to or finally resolved by arbitration in accordance with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and MP for Nsawam-Adoagyiri, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, moving the motion, said the AfCFTA Secretary-General has already been appointed and that the recruitment of four other directors and essential staff were underway.
“Although the Ministry Foreign Affairs could not provide the specific percentage of Ghanaians that would be employed at the secretariat, the committee was assured that the secretariat would be guided in its recruitment policy to hire the majority of Ghanaians particularly in the general staff category as the practice pertaining in countries hosting AU Organs,” Annoh-Dompreh, told the House.
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