Dealing with Technical Barriers to Trade in the Continental Free Trade Area
Africa might be entering a new phase in its pursuit to boost intra-African trade and deepen regional integration. This could happen if the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) provides some novel answers to long-standing problems. This paper discusses one of the practical issues now on the agenda: the design of a continental scheme to deal with Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs).
In order to shape the CFTA as a comprehensive legal framework suitable for meeting 21st century challenges, numerous trade and related issues need to be addressed. These include standard trade arrangement issues around customs procedures, tariffs, non-tariff measures, corruption, trade facilitation, trade remedies, and dispute settlement, as well as innovative answers and reforms for trade in services, finances, transport and corridors, investment, industrialisation, and the movement of capital and persons across borders. The latter includes proper engagement with how TBTs are dealt with and how to improve matters in this field.
The CFTA will hopefully provide for better trade governance on national as well as regional levels. There should be binding legal instruments to ensure effective implementation, the protection of rights, remedies in case of violations of obligations, legal certainty, and institutional oversight. International agreements do not guarantee more trade and a better business climate but a well-designed legal construct which tackles underlying causes is a sine qua non for improving the present situation. For the CFTA to deliver on its promises some bold decisions about sharing national policy space and sovereignty are required.
This publication was supported by the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) as part of their sub-Saharan Africa Working Group project on Upgrading of Quality Infrastructure in Africa.
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