Addis Ababa, 5 October 2020 (ECA) - The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) today hosted the first of a series of five virtual experts group review meetings on innovative new research on preferential trade arrangements in Africa. The project is in partnership with the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP).
The five studies, which gathered primary survey and interview data virtually over mid-2020, look to provide new answers to some of the critical challenges to how African traders use preferential trading regimes in Africa. This involves dedicated research on:
- Preferential trade agreement compliance: technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements and rules of origin
- Negotiating institutions: putting in the right foundations
- Preferential trade agreement utilisation
- Informal cross-border trade
- E-commerce in preferential trade agreements
The 1st of these studies on preferential trade agreement compliance in the SADC region was held today, on 5 October. The study focuses on two crucial non-tariff measures that must be complied with for private sector operators to access preferences: (1) Rules of Origin (RoO) and (2) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures.
This experts group meeting brought together virtually a small group of specially selected experts including, customs offices, trade ministries, the private sector, regional economic communities and international organizations.
David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, during his opening remarks emphasized that the critical purpose of the project was to develop analysis that can improve upon the value that African countries get out of preferential trade agreements in Africa.
Hermogene Nsengimana, Secretary General at African Organisation for Standardisation, raised the importance of fostering an African “culture of quality standards”, to help enable trade not just outside the continent, but within it, too. Oswald Chinyamakobvu, Senior Technical Advisory at the African Union Commission, for his part emphasized in his opening statement the significance of the rules of origin, including in the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“A large number of challenges remain for businesses to satisfy standards in intra-African trade, including labelling issues that raise compliance costs, and that these challenges are greatest among Africa’s MSMEs” said Tulo Makwati, Coordinator of the SADC Business Council.
A centrepiece of the experts’ group meeting involved critical feedback and discussion on the research findings. Issues were raised and emphasised including lack of awareness and knowledge over how to comply with the preferential trade arrangements, particularly given the lack of harmonization on these rules across Africa. With African trade being driven by SMEs, there was argued to be particular efforts required in these areas to improve the utilisation of preference trade arrangements. Another critical area cited was the underdevelopment of national quality infrastructure.
The insightful comments would be incorporated into the study and finalised over the next month before being translated into e-training courses for the public and private sector in the SADC region.
This expert group meeting is part of a broader project aimed at contributing to the enhancement of intra-African trade and the share of Africa in global trade through inclusive, sustainable and development-friendly trade reforms. Financially supported by the European Union, TradeCom II – ACP Trade Capacity Building Programme, ECA works in partnership with the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (trapca) and the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (tralac) on capacity building and training workshops. Particular focus will be put on the inclusion of women and youth.
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