A step forward for free trade in the ECCAS sub-region
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is launching a campaign to have all countries of the ECCAS sub-regional bloc operationalize the ECCAS Preferential Tariff (known for short in French as TP/CEEAC) – one of the instruments for easing trade in the zone.
This is within the framework of the ECCAS Free Trade Area which should lead to the full integration of the countries of this zone into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – a market that promises to boost the economies of the countries of the entire continent.
With the guidance of the Director of the ECA Subregional Office for Central Africa, Mr. Antonio Pedro, and under the technical coordination of the Chief of Subregional Initiatives in Central Africa of that Office – Mr. Tidjani Chetima, activities are underway to accompany officials in charge of trade and customs issues as well as entrepreneurs and representatives of civil society in the countries of the sub-region in mastering the said Preferential Tariff to ensure its full implementation with a view to increasing intra-community trade.
The first step in the process involves contributing to the establishment and operationalization of national committees responsible for examining applications for approval of made-in-Central-Africa finished products to be included in Preferential Tariff grid of the Community, in accordance with the clauses establishing the ECCAS Free Trade Area. To date, only four countries out of the 11 ECCAS member States have set up such committees.
Through this campaign, therefore, ECA will train the relevant administrators and field workers as well as representatives of the private sector in these and other countries of the area.
In concrete terms, the Commission is designing the training content for public administrators and private sector operators in the procedures surrounding applying for, and approving finished products to benefit from the harmonized preferential tariff of Central Africa as a whole.
Thereafter, the Commission will conduct training workshops in eight countries of the ECCAS community (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Sao Tome & Principe). ECA will also produce a guide for the preparation and submission of applications for accreditation to the preferential tariff grid.
This campaign is rolled out within the framework of the European Union’s support agreement signed with ECA for the harmonization of ECCAS-CEMAC trade policy instruments. It is in this context that ECA recently had a working session with the experts of the Technical Secretariat of the Steering Committee for the Rationalization of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Central Africa (COPIL/CER-AC), based in Yaoundé, Cameroon and coordinated by M Patrice Libong Badjan.
The experts of both the Technical Secretariat and ECA reiterated the urgent need to consolidate the Central African Free Trade Area by carrying out all the actions mentioned above to enable the subregion fit comfortably into the AfFCTA. They decided to maintain frank collaboration through regular consultations to consolidate and advance the issues of sub-regional integration in Central Africa.
The 13th Conference of Heads of State and Government of ECCAS, held in Brazzaville in October 2007, had taken a decision calling on ECCAS and CEMAC to set up a Committee for the Rationalization of RECs in Central Africa (COPIL/CER-AC).
The Committee was to include the two main RECs in Central Africa, the African Union (AU), the ECA, and the African Development Bank (AfDB) in view of harmonizing the integration policies, programs and instruments of these two RECs to eventually lead to a single regional economic community in Central Africa.
Ever since, ECA’s Subregional Office for Central Africa has been making technical and financial contributions that have contributed to the progress of the sub-regional integration dossier, particularly the free movement of people and goods in the CEMAC zone, which should subsequently be extended to the whole of ECCAS.