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tralac’s Daily News Selection

tralac’s Daily News Selection
Photo credit: Global Trade Review

17 Aug 2017

Today’s trade and integration event pointers:

  1. The political and socio-economic integration of the African continent: the role of the Pan-African Parliament (22-25 August, Cameroon)

  2. Mauritius to host AU Commission experts meetings (28 August - 2 September): Draft Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Draft Protocol on Statelessness in Africa

  3. 26th ACBF Board of Governors Meeting (4-5 September, Accra): Accessing funds for development - required capacities for resource mobilization, utilization and absorption

Boosting trade and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa (Wilton Park)

The purpose of this roundtable (28-30 June) was to identify and develop channels that facilitate greater trade and investment within, between and beyond the borders of the leading Sub-Saharan economies. It aimed to map out areas where developed and emerging states can partner with a range of countries in the region to share best practice in developing trade and investment policy with the long term goal of doubling both in a decade. Extract, Trade facilitation (pdf):

Investment promotion authorities could consider developing their operations and policies around the Ethiopian model, which focuses on building and maintaining relationships with investors and organisations, expanding beyond the simpler transactional model. Accelerating the implementation of key trade-related regulatory processes could primarily allow African businesses and industries to integrate better with one other and promote the creation of regional value chains between countries. Similar efforts are required to harmonise industry and export standards to that effect, establishing universal standards across regions to reduce time related costs and promote the development of value chains.

UK institutions could have an instrumental role in providing donor assistance and technical capacity building to facilitate the establishment of universal standards. Currently, marginal value is impeded by a lack of testing infrastructure, commonly agreed standards and competencies in upholding them. The voluntary setting of standards between companies, with the support from government, could have significant socio-economic benefits beyond simply easing trade and could create value chains with broader values. Donor support and technical assistance to management could help these efforts to remain country-led. Assistance with compliance to regulation and standards could take place on a regional level (i.e. ECOWAS, EAC) or come to the fore in future free trade agreements on either a Tripartite Free Trade Area or a Continental Free Trade Area. The UK could also provide support during processes on these agreements, particularly to Commonwealth countries, emphasising a renewed commitment to partnerships and seeking optimal, reciprocal outcomes. [Marcus Courage: Why Britain needs new Africa trade approach]

Japan seeks new approach to scale up private investment in Africa (New Times)

According to Takashi Shibata, the deputy director, African Division, African Affairs Department, at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the new approach is aimed at making best use of competitive edge, infrastructure investment and human resource development through the Asian country’s African Business Education Initiative for Youth, better known as ABE Initiative. The measures seek to develop infrastructure, build resilient health systems and lay the foundations of peace and stability, amounting to $30 billion under public-private partnership. A ministerial level meeting involving participation from African countries and senior officials from international organisations to stock take of the achievements and challenges encountered will be held this month in Maputo, Mozambique as a follow up on the variables of the TICAD meeting held last year in Nairobi, Kenya.

SADC, EU launch implementation of trade projects (SANews)

SADC and the European Union have formally launched the implementation of projects valued at 31.6 million Euros. The projects were launched under the Trade Related Facility, which was established through a contribution agreement between the EU and SADC in 2014. Projects being supported by the TRF mainly focus on customs cooperation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, rules of origin, trade facilitation, industrial development, trade promotion and development, and trade in services. In addition, there are specific areas that relate to the EPA Window, namely trade defence instruments, trade related adjustment and competition policy.

Gambia to sign free trade deal with EU (The Point)

The Gambia government and European Union have restarted the process of signing a free trade deal, dubbed Economic Partnership Agreement – EU’s flagship trade agreement, the government and EU officials said. In West Africa, ECOWAS led the regional EPA discussion as a bloc with the EU and so far, all member states, except The Gambia and Nigeria, have signed the deal. The Gambia could not be part of the signatories, then, as former President Yahya Jammeh’s government position was: “The Gambia will never be a party to the so-called EPA with the EU as it is designed to continue the same exploitation and impoverishment of the African continent.”

The permanent secretary, Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Naffie Barry, said that at the level of The Gambia government, the process has begun but the actual ratification of the deal is nowhere in sight. “Yes, we are working towards finalising the EPA but there is no timeframe for us to sign it because this agreement is not for the government alone to decide. It involves a process,” she said. The process, PS Barry explained, includes sensitising the stakeholders, particularly the business community and farmers, on the advantages of EPA. After the sensitisation, the EPA treaty will then go through the National Assembly for ratification. “So we don’t just get up and sign it, but yes the process has begun,” she affirmed.

GSA seeks regional partnership for single window platform (Graphic)

The Ghana Shippers Authority is seeking to partner the African Shippers Union to introduce a policy guideline to push political heads within the West African sub-region to harmonise cross-border trade under a regional single window platform. According to the acting CEO of the Authority, Ms Benonita Bismarck, harmonisation of transit processes are key in achieving the policy on free trade along the transit corridors in line with ECOWAS protocols. Speaking on the sidelines of the just ended conference on Single Windows and Port Community Systems in Cotonou, Ms Bismarck suggested that the activity-based cost where goods in transit were made to spend several days at various borders within the sub-region were likely to derail the efforts being made to improve trade competitiveness among countries. “With the adoption and implementation of single windows, border officials do not have to go through the validation of documentations on transit goods which could take days to a week before such cargoes could cross to the next point. A single window platform by a click of a button could display that all forms of duties have been paid, and this would allow easy passage of shipments,” Ms Bismarck said. “If we want to make Africa competitive, we ought to rise and put our shoulders to the wheel and ensure the removal of artificial barriers, which are a poor reflection on trade on the continent,” she added.

She suggested the need for the various shipper’s authorities to collaborate and set up a central call point fixed with toll free numbers which transshipment drivers could call for assistance when they were being delayed unnecessarily on their journey. The toll free numbers, she said, could serve as a convergence point for all stakeholders such as police, customs, immigrations, importers, exporters, among others, connected to the transit processes to allow for the immediate deployment of officers in the event of challenges.

High Level Technical Consultation Dialogue on Public Tax and Fiscal Transparency Rules for Multinationals and Private Individuals in Africa: update

The new rules proposed in the discussions (27-28 July, Abuja) would require multinationals operating in Africa with global revenues exceeding a predetermined dollar amount a year to publish key information on where they make their profits and where they pay their tax in Africa on a country-by-country basis. The same rules would apply to non-African multinationals doing business in Africa. In addition, companies should be required to publish an aggregate figure for total taxes paid outside Africa. Following the consultation, a policy brief with clear recommendations and roadmap for a new continental framework for public tax transparency and fiscal disclosure rules for multinationals and private individuals will be submitted to the AU member states as consideration for adoption, and as an addendum to the current Africa Union’s Convention on Combating and Preventing Corruption. In addition, UNDP Africa will develop a regional initiative on tax administration to support countries review and strengthen their legislation, as well as enhance capacity of their oversight institutions for more effective tax administration.

Logistics competencies, skills, and training: a global overview (World Bank)

In developing countries with a potentially available workforce, lack of vocational preparation for careers in logistics means that less-skilled workers are not easily re-skilled. Logistics tasks at the upper end of the occupational hierarchy and those with high information technology content often require an upskilling of employees to keep pace with new technology. Yet the problem is not confined to recruitment. The surveys point to limited resources, money, and staff time allocated to training, especially in developing countries. Realizing the promise of quality jobs from the growth of logistics worldwide requires a coordinated effort by logistics companies, professional associations, training providers, and policy makers. Through a combination of facilitation, regulation, advice, financial instruments, and land use planning, governments can exert significant influence.

ICC-WTO Small Business Champions: call for proposals (ICC)

A joint effort to facilitate participation by smaller companies in international trade has been launched by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and ICC Secretary-General John Danilovich. The initiative, entitled ‘ICC-WTO Small Business Champions’, will provide a platform for companies and private sector organisations around the world to propose innovative, practical ideas designed to encourage micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to do business across borders. Those businesses putting forward successful proposals will be recognized as ‘ICC-WTO Small Business Champions’. Further details:

ECLAC: 2017 Foreign Direct Investment report

The United Nations Latin America commission has reported that FDI inflows to the region declined by 7.9%, to $167.043bn in 2016, due to low commodity prices, sluggish economic growth and global trend of shifting investment in developed economies. The report on 2017 Foreign Direct Investment, published annually and launched late last week by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, showed the region is losing ground as a recipient of FDI, with inflows reducing for the second year in a row to levels as six years ago. Despite the downward trend, FDI flows stand at 3.6% of the region’s GDP, while the global average is 2.5%, revealing the importance of transnational corporations in the region’s economies.

NAFTA renegotiations: opening statement of USTR Robert Lighthizer

The numbers are clear. The US Government has certified that at least 700,000 Americans have lost their jobs due to changing trade flows resulting from NAFTA. Many people believe that number is much, much bigger than that. In 1993, when NAFTA was approved, the United States and Mexico experienced relatively balanced trade. However since then, we have had persistent trade deficits – in the last year totaling nearly $57bn. In the auto sector alone, the US has a $68bn deficit with Mexico. Thousands of American factory workers have lost their jobs because of these provisions. In recent years, we have seen some improvement in our trade balance with Canada. But over the last ten years, our deficit in goods has exceeded $365bn. The views of the President about NAFTA, which I completely share, are well known. I want to be clear that he is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters. We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement. Here are some of the examples of what I believe needs to be changed. [Mexico: Key in NAFTA talks is ‘not tearing apart what has worked’]

Today’s Quick Links:

AGOA Forum 2017: opening statement by Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga (AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry). US assures Africa AGOA pact is here to stay

New Development Bank Africa Regional Centre: speech by President Jacob Zuma

World Bank: Poverty-specific purchasing power parities in Africa

G5 Sahel Joint Force on trans-border terrorism, organized crime: UNSC update

UN SG appoints former German President Köhler as his Western Sahara envoy

China: IMF Selected Issues report; China’s economic outlook in six charts

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This post has been sourced on behalf of tralac and disseminated to enhance trade policy knowledge and debate. It is distributed to recipients across Africa and internationally, serving in the AU, RECs, national government trade departments and research and development agencies.

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