Analysis

The Analysis Section of Afronomicslaw.org publishes two types of content on issues of international economic law and public international law, and related subject matter, relating to Africa and the Global South. First, individual blog submissions which readers are encouraged to submit for consideration. Second, feature symposia, on discrete themes and book reviews that fall within the scope of the subject matter focus of Afronomicslaw.org. 

US Suspends Four Countries from AGOA: Reassessing the Human Rights Trade Nexus

The US Government announced on October 30th that the Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon, Niger, and Uganda will be removed from the list of 35 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries that are eligible for market access under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The announcement came on the eve of the 20th AGOA Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 2nd to 4th of November 2023. According to the US Government, CAR and Uganda have engaged in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights. This paper reflects on the decision, which is not the first by the Biden administration in the last few years. This paper argues that the recent decision by the US is an example of developed countries using trade incentives and sanctions to achieve their geopolitical interests in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) under the pretext of promoting human rights standards.

Pioneering Inclusivity in Trade: The AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest in the world by membership, aims to increase trade flows of African products and services within the continent by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers. The Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade included within the scope of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA is a first of its kind for a regional trade agreement of this scale. The inclusion of the Protocol is a concrete realization of the commitment of the Assembly of African Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) to “broaden inclusiveness” in the operation of the AfCFTA, demonstrating a novel approach to addressing gender issues within trade agreements. This article will first discuss the relevance of including gender considerations in trade agreements in supporting women’s participation in their various trade roles and in maximising the potential benefits of trade agreements as a whole; second, it will propose considerations for determining the scope and focus of the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade.

Is the Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade a bridge too far?

Akin to the proverbial new wine in old skins, the Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade is an ingenious idea whose prospects stand to run afoul of entrenched and systemic forms of discrimination and exclusion. If successfully enacted, the instrument must find its way around economic nationalism (protectionism), vulnerabilities of infant markets in the South, dominance of neoliberal economic thinking, and State dysfunction. Short of far-reaching and deliberate institutional, policy, and legislative reforms at the individual country- and Regional Economic Community (REC) levels, the Protocol runs the risk of being another of those beautiful mechanisms printed on glossy paper, but with no tangible effects to the everyday lives of the billion Africans in whose name it was enacted.

AfCFTA: Rethinking Women's Inclusivity and Equality

One of the benefits of commenting or critiquing a drafting process and a draft protocol is that it gives you the freedom to question assumptions and offers a timely analysis that helps improve the zero draft. However, here I am, discussing and commenting on a draft protocol that I am yet to read because the draft is not available for public distribution. With that caveat, my thoughts here are general. The societal role of women cannot change without changing the position of men, and by the same token, concerns of women should not be confined to a separate protocol but rather ought to be at the heart of the AfCFTA. But here we are, and the question asked of us is to analyze what inclusive AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth means.

Symposium Introduction: Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade - Unpacking “Inclusivity”

There have been many important developments on the continent since the official start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021. Keen to stimulate discussion of the ambitious development objectives which have animated the AfCFTA project and their potential to be realized by the effort as currently conceived, the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School, Afronomicslaw.org, and the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA) at the London School of Economics and Political Science came together in early 2023 to co-sponsor a discussion series entitled “Assessing Developments in the Negotiation and Implementation of the AfCFTA”. The first session of the series was convened online by the IGLP on April 17, 2023, and centered on the Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade (the Protocol) which is currently being negotiated.

WTO Reform Feasibility in Times of International Crisis: A Position from Below

WTO Members have discussed WTO reform since the collapse of the WTO Appellate Body (AB) in 2019, which was caused mainly by the US opposition to appointing new AB members. The US attacked the AB for its performance and its interpretation of WTO rules. The US has also consistently criticized the WTO’s incapability to reach agreements and reform itself. Nonetheless, this Western discomfort towards the organisation and the AB began at the Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle (1999) when developing countries opposed the Global North’s attempt to open new trade negotiations. This push continued during the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha(2001), where the membership loosely agreed on a mandate for “Global and Sustainable Development”, albeit one without clear expectations to cut a deal in line with such a mandate of achieving a fair balance between trade and development at the multilateral trading system. One ministerial conference after the other, there was a failure to agree on Western driven “Development Agenda” until the Members agreed on the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the agricultural subsidies exports prohibition in Bali (2013) and Nairobi (2015), respectively. However, and even after the collapse of the AB, a criticised agreement on fishery subsidies (2022) was reached with a sunset clause of 5 years, making it in turn a chimera because of the short term.

Who Owns the Crown, the Wearer or the Bearer?

As this symposium and a plethora of literature have no doubt illustrated over the last few years, the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) famed Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) is at a critical stage of its development. Some have referred to this stage as a crossroads – and with good reason – but I think it is more of a magic roundabout. Whichever way we look at it, there is so much at stake no matter which direction the DSB takes by the end of this crisis. One lesser discussed factor is the all-important question of participation, representation and diversity in the dispute resolution process.

Embracing Representation and Diversity in the WTO Dispute Settlement Processes

The World Trade Organization (WTO) stands as a cornerstone of the global trade architecture, fostering cooperation and negotiation among its diverse membership. At the heart of its operations lies the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM), a rules-based system designed to ensure fair resolution of trade disputes. However, as a rules-based system for global trade, DSM faces a challenge of representation of its diverse parts encompassing regional disparities, differences in legal traditions, and gender imbalances that impinge on its ability to serve the needs of all its members and maintain its legitimacy. This blog post critically examines these issues and proposes strategies to enhance diversity and representation within the DSM, bolstering its legitimacy and ability to fulfil its overarching objectives.

Why Compulsory Jurisdiction Must be Non-Negotiable

Dispute settlement reform is a priority for World Trade Organisation (WTO) Members as the thirteenth Ministerial Conference (known as ‘MC13’) in February 2024 rapidly approaches. With no sign of consensus among the Members of what a functioning dispute settlement must look like there is a growing feeling in Geneva that the WTO’s crisis is reaching a tipping point: ‘it is reform or die’.

The MPIA: A Viable Temporary Alternative

On 11 December 2023, it will be four years since the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Appellate Body (AB) was fully functional. Indeed, on 11 December 2019, the terms of two Appellate Body Members (ABMs), Amb. Ujal Singh Bhatia and Mr. Thomas R. Graham, expired. This left Dr. Hong Zhao as the sole ABM in a paralysed AB until 30 November 2020 when her term ended. With this, came the fall of a unique institution in international dispute settlement and the weakening of the WTO's dispute settlement system (DSM), which has been termed the WTO's "crown jewel". The AB's demise was triggered by the United States' (US) refusal to permit the appointment of ABMs. The US has very vocally and consistently stated that the AB had, essentially, become a law unto itself and overstepped its legal mandates set out in the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) and as a subordinate institution of the Dispute Settlement Body.