There is a feeling that the next decade will be a watershed period in terms of the economic relations between the EU and Africa. Both continents are experiencing sweeping developments that will invariably affect their respective existence and mutual relationships. In Africa, the largest preferential trade area, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has recently been ratified while in Europe, the EU is navigating the challenges of Brexit. All this is taking place in the backdrop of negotiations between the two blocs to replace the Cotonou Agreement which has since 2000 served as the bedrock of economic relations between the EU and ACP states. How, then, will the Africa-EU relationship be impacted – if at all – by the implementation of AfCFTA?
Noting the different levels of economic development amongst AfCFTA State Parties, this post intends to shed light on implementation of Annex 4 to the benefit of all. This is in part due to the fact that the TFA steers away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead introduces new, unique and innovative features to facilitate Members’ integration into the global value networks. Furthermore, I contend that the features discussed could serve as a model to further elaborate on Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) as a guiding principle within the context of trade facilitation measures.
The AfCFTA-DSM will be nestled in a culture of African States that does no pursue formal settlement of trade disputes before judicial or quasi-judicial bodies. Given the dearth of core economic integration disputes before the African regional economic community courts; and, the failure of previous WTO-like DSM transplanted at the regional level, what potential if any, has the AfCFTA-DSM to chart a new course? Similarly, what can we garner about the culture of African States towards trade disputes?
Africa is currently at a risk of reaching the zenith of bilateralism/regionalism in terms of the number of regional trade agreements (RTAs) present in the continent. Yet the advantages of close economic integration have not yet been adequately witnessed in African Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). Moreover, it is generally the case that each African state is a member to at least two or more RTAs. This has created the quintessential spaghetti bowl on the continent.
Regional integration requires not only the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, but also the removal of impediments that cause the physical movement of goods across borders to be slow and costly. These impediments may arise due to defects in policies, laws or procedures. Thus, trade should not only be liberalised, but it also needs to be facilitated. The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines trade facilitation as “the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes.” Six of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are land-locked (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Therefore, inefficiency and high costs in cross-border trade have detrimental impacts on their ability to participate in global, as well as in regional trade. SADC states are parties to several agreements that aim at facilitating trade. However, the implementation of obligations remains a chronic challenge.