Trade relations: Central Africa prepares common external tariff

Yaounde, 28 June 2019 (ECA) – In pursuit of a single customs union across the CEMAC and ECCAS community spaces in Central Africa, a consolidated proposal of a single common external tariff (CET)   for both communities has been presented to all 11 member States of the subregion for reviews that would lead to adoption and implementation of the CET.

This follows deliberations of the 4th and 5th sessions on economic and trade issues of the Steering Committee of the Rationalization of Regional Economic Communities in Central Africa (COPIL/CER, in French), recently held in Douala, Cameroon.

The Subregional Office for Central Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), sits on the said Steering Committee alongside the CEMAC Commission, the ECCAS General Secretariat and all concerned member States – with Cameroon as the Chair.

The proposed tariffs range from naught to 40% of duties on single units or volumes (measured in kilogram, liter, square meter, etc.) depending on the nature of the product.

Animal protein products cover an important volume within the index, which proposes tariffs on live animals, from table birds to horses, at 5 to 20% per head. 

Meats ranging from pork to beef and reptile catches, as well as fish and crustaceans, coming from outside the sub-region, would be taxed at 20% per kilogram.

According to the draft index, a 5 to 20% levy would be placed on dairy, bird and honey products and animal derivatives such as butter. Plants, vegetables and floricultural produce would also be taxed within this range as per the standard units of their measurement.

While construction items such as cement and certain stones would have a 5 to 20% toll per kilogram, raw metal mineral products would be levied at 5 to 10 per kilogram

The draft index recommends duties ranging from 10 to 20% per unit for pumps, and industrial and non-industrial machines.

Pieces of medical equipment enjoy some of the least tariffs proposed, with overall 5% rates per unit, while objects such as toys, musical instruments, arms and ammunitions and furniture have been generally tariffed at a 20%.  

Products that would enjoy zero CET include seeds of cereals, air transport vehicles and aviation-related machines. 

Land tourist vehicles and tractors would be taxed from 5 to 20% per unit of purchasing value, sea transport vehicles would be levied at between 5 and 20%, while railway rolling stock items would incur a 5 to 10% charge at Central African ports of entry.

The heaviest rate proposed for the CET is a 40% tax on standard measures of cocoa powder, tobacco products (measured in kilogram), pharmaceutical waste, mineral and sparkling water (scaled in liters), cotton/polyester tissues (measured in square meters), ready-made clothes/accessories and hair mesh. 

According to the Coordinator of the Technical Secretariat of COPIL/CER, Mr. Patrice Libong Badjang, the rationalization of the RECs of Central Africa, through such projects as the adoption of a common external tariff for all countries of the subregion, “is unstoppably heading towards its goal, despite the limited financial resources which constitute the Achilles’ heel of the work of the Steering Committee.”

A study on a common CEMAC-ECCAS trade policy framework, presented during the CET review, demonstrates that with an intraregional trade rate of just 3.1%, Central Africa is the area of the developing world that trades the least among its members.

The situation, the report says, is attributable to overall poor business climates which increase the cost of trade, poor knowledge/appropriation of trade instruments, barriers to free movement of people as well as other tariff and non-barriers.

These challenges should be dealt with in earnest, while implementing a subregion-wide CET, concludes the report.

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