tralac’s Daily News selection
Diarise: ECOWAS Ministerial meeting for the adoption of two new ECOWAS standards (25 June)
The West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) has launched its official website. The EU-funded programme aims to support several selected value chains at national and regional level to promote structural transformation and better access to regional and international markets, while taking into account social and environmental considerations.
Reviving the WTO: a commentary by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Project Syndicate)
Over the last two decades, international trade has become a bogeyman for critics who blame it for the economic woes some countries face. But trade is not a zero-sum game: rights and obligations can be balanced, as the evolution of global and regional trading rules since 1948 has shown. The question facing the WTO and its members now, therefore, is how to make progress and reach mutually beneficial agreements. All members should participate in this endeavor, because that is the only way the organization can regain its credibility and carry out its rule-making function. New negotiations must therefore take account of members’ varying levels of economic development, and aim – as ever – to reach fair and equitable agreements. Other crucial priorities for the WTO include enhanced transparency, in the form of timely notifications of countries’ trade measures, and an effective dispute-settlement system that commands the confidence of all members. A moribund WTO does not serve any country’s interest.
ECOWAS endorses Okonjo-Iweala for WTO job: “She is a fearless reformer” (The Cable)
“Having acknowledged the strong academic and professional background of Dr. Okonjo-lweala and her very large experience in national affairs as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister briefly in 2006;
“Having further acknowledged her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions, her established reputation as a fearless reformer, her excellent negotiating and political skills, her experience of over 30 years as a Development Economist with a long standing interest in trade, her excellent academic qualifications, her positions as Managing Director World Bank, and currently as Board Chair Gavi, and African Union Special Envoy to Mobilize Financial Resources for the fight against Covid19;
“Endorses the candidature of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization for the period 2021-2025 and calls on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse her candidature.”
Marc L. Busch: Lighthizer’s tariff ‘reset’ would dramatically change the politics of US trade remedies (The Hill)
Last week, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified before the House Ways and Means Committee that other countries’ “very high bound tariff rates” are unfair to the United States. Lighthizer called for a “reset” of tariffs at the WTO to level the playing field. He is right to do so. But a tariff reset would put a new spin on trade remedies like antidumping duties. If Lighthizer were to get his tariff reset, U.S. exporters would increasingly be harassed by trade remedies abroad. That’s because countries lowering their bound tariffs rates would back fill with measures like antidumping duties. This would dramatically change the politics of trade remedies in Washington. First, the problem.
The 4,500km Lagos – Algiers road takes a step closer to reality (The Africa Report)
The completion of a strategic section in the Chiffa Gorge gives a decisive boost to the project - born more than fifty years ago - of a road linking Algiers and Lagos. Seven small kilometres. This is the size of the segment of the motorway between Haouch Messaoudi and Médéa that is due to be delivered in the coming weeks. If the section is attracting so much attention, it is because it is the last of the Chiffa-Berrouaghia section (53 km), the most strategic of the expressway being built between Algiers and El Menia, over more than 800 km, essentially doubling the length of Algeria’s National Road 1. To achieve it, 5km of tunnels and 14km of bridges and viaducts, the highest piers of which reach 70 m, have been built since April 2013 by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, in particular in association with the Algerian public groups Sapta and Engoa.
This is also good news for Africa, says Mohammed Ayadi, Secretary General of the Liaison Committee of the Trans-Saharan Road (CLRT), which includes six countries, since if the main artery of this road crosses Algeria, Niger and Nigeria, several branches join Mali, Tunisia and Chad. “A feasibility study ten years ago showed that operators in northern Niger and northern Mali, who would move their goods via the trans-Saharan route from Mediterranean ports rather than the Gulf of Guinea, would save 11 days,” he says.
Ghana: State not losing revenue at entry points - Commissioner-General (Business Ghana)
The state is not losing any revenue at the country’s entry points as the Integrated Customs Union Management Systems deployed on June 1, 2020 is working creditably. Rev. Amishaidai Owusu-Amoah, the commissioner-General Ghana Revenue Authority, who disclosed this at a press briefing said between June 1 and 17 the customs Division of the GRA was able to collect 490 million cedis in revenue. This, he said, compares favourably with the average monthly revenue collections of about 942 million cedis from January to May this year from the country’s entry points when the old system deployed by GCNET was in use. While admitting that there were teething challenges with the system, the Commissioner-General said most of these initial problems were being fixed to allow for seamless operations. [IMANI Africa’s Franklin Cudjoe worried ‘organised chaos’ at the ports will hit hard at national revenue]
Rwanda: Cross-border trade unscathed despite COVID-19 - Minister Gatete (New Times)
The Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete has said that cross border trade is progressing well, despite the measures in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. “Trade is going well. In 25 hours, we receive between 400 and 500 cross border trucks at Rusumo border. Sometimes they are more. At Kagitumba, it is between 45 and 60 while at Cyanika, they are between 9 and 15.” Rusumo is Rwanda’s gateway to Tanzania on the Central Corridor while Kagitumba and Cyanika link Rwanda to Uganda and serves as the gateway to the port of Mombasa in Kenya, through the Northern Corridor.
Kenya: Sugar imports increase 21% despite upturn in local production (Business Daily)
According to the Sugar Directorate, imports between January and May stood at 207,814 tonnes against 172,213 tonnes last year. Enhanced imports came amid a 15% increase in local production, with growth in local yields attributed to a slight improvement in sugar cane supply to private millers. All the private mills registered improved productivity in the review period. According to the regulator, May registered a decline of 13% in imports due to logistics hitch brought about by Covid-19. In April there was a 14% decline. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa countries supplied Kenya with 13,755 while East African Community provided 1,180 tonnes with the rest of the world providing 7,702 tonnes.
The Zambian government said on Wednesday that it will not accept mineral samples from exporters of minerals from July 1 in order to address the problem of under-declaration by some exporters. The Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development said mineral samples from exporters which currently were being submitted to the Geological Survey Department will not be accepted because the government wanted to ensure mineral grading and safeguarding export revenue. Barnaby Mulenga, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said exporters were required to submit their samples before an export permit was issued but noted that the government has been losing revenue due to undervaluation. [US farming body and Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields]
Namibia: Namports records 30% increase in cargo (Namibia Economist)
The Namibian Ports Authority has managed to handle 1 million tons of cargo carried along the corridors from 1 April 2019 until 31 March 2020, with the Port of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz also recording 5,561,999 tonnes of cargo handled during this last financial year. According to Namport, the largest portion of growth is reflected by the 100% increased activity along the Trans-Oranje Corridor as 204,301 tonnes of manganese ore was exported via the Port of Lüderitz. The benefit of the Trans-Oranje corridor is to serve the mines in the Northern Cape as it is a much shorter route versus using a South African based port. This unique initiation between TradePort Namibia logistics deal came into fruition early last year.
South Africa: President refers Copyright and Performers’ Protection Amendment Bills to Parliament (The Presidency)
The President has, in correspondence to the Speaker of the National Assembly, acknowledged the noble objectives of the amendments but also indicated to the Speaker that the Presidency has received a number of submissions opposing the signing into law of the two Bills. The President is concerned that both Bills have been incorrectly tagged Section 75 Bills in terms of the constitutionally prescribed process for Parliament’s processing of legislation. Section 75 Bills are Bills do not affect the provinces. However, the President is of the view that the Bills concerned are in fact Section 76 Bills, given that they affect cultural matters and trade – namely trade in copyright - in which provinces exercise competence.
Caixin Summer Summit 2020: “Covid-19: We need more connectivity, not less”. Keynote speech by Mr Ravi Menon (Monetary Authority of Singapore):
I think there are two priorities for international co-operation in the wake of Covid-19: first, keeping supply chains open; second, strengthening digital connectivity.
An area that could clearly benefit from digital and data connectivity is cross-border trade. There is a large number and variety of parties involved in an international trade transaction. The trade process is highly fragmented, paper-based, slow, and cumbersome. Harmonising and digitising trade documents and putting them through a seamless digital platform will help to make trade more efficient and secure.
Food safety will be an area of high priority as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. This often requires traceability in supply chains that span multiple countries. Being able to do this well requires data sharing and digital connectivity. An example of digital connectivity that addresses both trade finance and food safety is DBS Bank’s partnership with Agrocorp, a Singapore-headquartered agricultural commodity and food solutions provider. They have developed a block chain trade platform that connects 4,500 Australian farmers with Agrocorp’s restaurant and supermarket customers. The platform provides real-time pricing, shared delivery information, and automated trade finance approval. The platform will be extended to include additional source information about the water, fertiliser, and pesticide usage of the commodities traded. This will improve food traceability and food safety.
A particularly important dimension of digital connectivity is cross-border data connectivity. Covid-19 has shown that the ability to leverage the cloud to store and access data is critical for business continuity and cyber security, amid travel restrictions and office closures. We need to put in place agreements to enable cross-border data flows in a secure and seamless manner, so that digital transactions can be consummated efficiently. Digital connectivity and trusted data corridors are to the digital economy what free trade agreements were to the traditional economy. Singapore has signed so-called Digital Economy Agreements with Australia, New Zealand, and Chile. These joint commitments provide clarity and certainty to firms moving data across our jurisdictions to support their business operations and risk management.
Today’s Quick Links:
The Africa Report: DfID merger signals shift to promoting UK national self interest