An assessment of agricultural sensitive products within the Cape to Cairo Tripartite Region
The issue of sensitive products for exemption from tariff liberalisation in the different countries/regional groupings may become an area of contention in the tripartite FTA negotiations, simply because much of the basis for this exemption designation is likely to be arbitrary, and the sensitive products are more likely to reflect protectionist interests or rent-seeking behaviour, both of which will perpetuate inefficiencies.
There have been discussions around the issue of sensitive products within the individual RECs and within the tripartite FTA itself, thus emphasising the significance of this issue and therefore we urge countries to base their selection on genuine public policy objectives.
This paper provides an overview on what motivates countries to seek flexibilities for certain products from full liberalisation. We start with a review of how the issue of sensitive products is being handled at the multilateral and regional level before focusing on agricultural trade liberalisation within the tripartite FTA and to what extent agricultural products form part of the sensitive products list.
Sensitive products can undermine the process of deeper integration, and furthermore the lack of resources and analytical capacity to undertake detailed analysis and the lack of properly defined guidelines and benchmarks also hinders the process. We presume that this may partly explain the delays by some countries in COMESA and SADC to identify and notify to the respective Secretariats, their lists of sensitive products.
The paper concludes by highlighting the need for policy makers to find ways to develop a systematic approach to determining sensitive products and to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the purpose of a sensitive products list. The current list of sensitive products reflects poorly on the desire to establish a CU with a CET, to which all the RECs have or aspire to attain.
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