WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and its implementation in southern Africa
This Trade Brief considers some of the major challenges and inefficiencies in cross-border trade in the southern Africa region and the benefits that implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) could bring for SADC countries.
The negotiations for the TFA were concluded during the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 7 December 2013. The protocol was adopted and opened for acceptance by members on 27 November 2014. The agreement required two-thirds of WTO members to ratify it and notify the WTO for it become operational. This was achieved on 22 February 2017 when the number of ratifications from the 164 WTO Members reached 112. As at 9 March 2017, 114 WTO Members have ratified the Agreement and are now expected to implement the TFA.
According to the WTO, trade facilitation is the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes. The trade facilitation agreement provides for measures which expedite movement of goods across borders, release and clearance of goods including consignments in transit. It has provisions for cooperation among border agencies and additionally it has provisions for technical assistance and capacity building.
Out of the 15 SADC Member States only 8 have to date ratified and accepted the agreement on trade facilitation. Notable by their absence are Angola and South Africa. A review of the category A provisions for the SADC countries that have ratified the agreement, shows that these countries have committed themselves to implementing systems that they already have in place. As a result of that approach, not much immediate effect of the trade facilitation agreement will be felt until countries start to implement Category B and C commitments.
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