An Analysis of Africa’s Category A Notifications
In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. In late November 2014, a protocol to integrate the TFA into the WTO agreement was formally adopted, and will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process.
The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues, and contains first-of-its kind provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area. Critically, the TFA allows developing countries to schedule their commitments for the provisions of the Agreement into 3 categories (A, B, and C) depending on their readiness to implement the provisions and their needs for technical assistance and capacity building.
As of 25 May 2015, 13 AU member states had submitted category A notifications to the WTO.
Successful implementation of the TFA can provide significant gains for Africa, and can address key aspects of the Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) Action Plan, endorsed by the African Union Heads of States and Governments in 2012. According to UNECA’s recent economic modelling, implementation of trade facilitation reforms will have a significantly higher impact on boosting intra-regional trade in Africa than simply reducing tariffs.
The DFID Africa Regional Department has selected Saana Consulting to undertake this one-year consultancy to assist the AU Commission’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to define, establish and deliver its post-Bali work programme around implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. In overall terms, the project will give the AU a “helicopter view” to track TFA implementation, reforms, investments and the consequent impacts across the continent. In particular, the project will strengthen the DTI’s capacity in the following ways:
- Supporting AU member states and RECs to monitor Category A, B and C notifications under the TFA in a manner which engages the private sector, synchronises with existing TF initiatives by RECs, and supports the wider goal of integrating Africa’s markets.
- Promoting tools to assist member states and RECs with identifying technical assistance requirements and mobilising resources in the public and private sectors.
- Mapping on-going and planned TFA focused development assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors; identifying gaps, and suggesting practical steps to maximise their impact and effectiveness (e.g. through highlighting success stories and best practices).
- Providing regular reports and briefings to AU structures, including the Summit and Trade Ministers, on the status of implementation of the TFA, progress and investments being made, key challenges, and the likely expected benefits in terms of boosting intra-African trade.
- Facilitate the development of a continental Trade Facilitation Strategy that includes the BIAT Action Plan on Trade Facilitation and the TFA to facilitate reporting to AU structures, member states and development partners.
Petteri Lammi is managing this project on behalf of Saana Consulting. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org