The Tripartite free-trade agreement was recently signed between various African nations, and includes the following text in its principles:

The principles governing this Agreement shall be the following:


e) building on the acquis;

This term is not defined in the text. My understanding is that it therefore refers to the Community acquis, i.e. the "accumulated legislation, legal acts, and court decisions which constitute the body of European Union law". Please correct me if I have misinterpreted.

My question is, how might this statement influence the way that the treaty is implemented? For instance, would this enable the dispute settlement mechanism to refer to precedents in EU law in reaching a decision?

The full text of the agreement is available here.

1 Answer 1


Although the term acquis is very commonly (almost always?) used to refer to EU precedent, the word roughly translates as "that which has been agreed" and there's no reason that other legal communities can't use it to refer to their own body of previous decisions. Perhaps Wikipedia and Wiktionary are both misleading in their handling and redirection of this term.

The intended meaning of this term within the Tripartite negotiation is explained by the Trade Law Centre in Redirecting the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement negotiations?

v) Building on the acquis of the existing REC FTAs in terms of consolidating tariff liberalisation in each REC FTA

Acquis is a French term meaning ‘that which has been agreed’. In the context of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement it means that the negotiations should start from the point at which of the COMESA, EAC and SADC trade negotiations have reached.

Tariff negotiations and the exchange of tariff concessions would be among Member/Partner States of the Tripartite FTA that have no preferential arrangements in place between them. This will both preserve the acquis and build on it.

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