There is need for Customs administrations in Africa to evolve from gate-keeping role and enforcement of policies on behalf of other government departments, to being active contributors in the policy-making initiatives. Customs officials involved in manning ports of entry should be involved in assessing the practicality of certain trade measures like Rules of Origin as well as making contribution on how best to enforce the regional trade arrangements. This could involve the relevant trade Ministers involved in the regional negotiations consulting with Customs administrations on the best approach to design the measures that would directly require Customs enforcement.
Regional Trade Agreements
This post engages with the Global Value Chain Development (GVCD) reports co-published by the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. It focuses on one central claim these reports have made about the development-related benefits of firms’ participation in GVCs, and on the policy recommendations that follow. The claim is that by inserting themselves into global value chains (GVCs) and technologically upgrading, firms can move up the value-added ladder and capture a greater share of the economic rewards, thereby also benefiting workers and their states in terms of employment, income and taxation.
Although the use of the plural on ‘provisions’, in the Transparency Mechanism could also be interpreted as meaning notification under GATT Article XXIV (for RTAs in goods) and GATS Article V (for RTAs in services) only, it remains an open question. Consequently, notification of the Protocol on Trade in Goods of the AfCFTA under both routes (GATT Article XXIV and Enabling Clause) would come as no surprise despite the dubious legality of such a practice.
Considering the ambition of the AfCFTA for deep integration, aiming at liberalizing trade in goods, services, investment, intellectual property, competition and e-commerce, and to guarantee that compliance schedules are absolute results of negotiated arrangements among African countries as opposed to the superintendence and policing of the WTO, this essay suggests that a Full Agreement pathway to notification should be considered.
Now that the commencement of AFCTA has been postponed in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need for a clear conceptualisation of flexibility in relation to the commitments and obligations created in African RTAs including the AFCTA. There is also a need to identify how some narratives that are subsumed in the flexibility paradigm may end up doing more harm than good to informal trade engagements in the continent.
The aim of this piece is to contribute to the evolving debate around the AfCFTA and its relationship with the WTO. It considers whether the practice of African RTAs to rely on the Enabling Clause since 1979 should be replicated. Considering the ambition of the AfCFTA for a deep integration, aiming at liberalising trade in goods, services, investment, intellectual property, competition, etc, the Enabling Clause appears as a second-best option.
The conference is organised by the Postgraduate and Early Professionals/Academics Network of the Society of International Economic Law (PEPA/SIEL) in collaboration with the International Law Forum and other sponsors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. SIEL’s Postgraduate and Early Professionals/Academics Network (PEPA/SIEL) is, among other things, interested in fostering collaboration and mentoring opportunities for emerging academics and professionals in International Economic Law (IEL). PEPA/SIEL fulfils these goals through various activities such as organising conferences at which emerging IEL academics and professionals can present and discuss their research in a supportive and welcoming environment.
This Symposium, and the contributions carry on the conversation by examining the ways in which the contributors have harnessed theory and method in their critical scholarship on IEL in Africa. Continuing to build the knowledge base on IEL that is both rigorous and relevant to Africa has a lot to do with the lens through which research work is conducted.
While the AfCFTA is most probably the next best thing in terms of economic benefits (for instance, huge trade volumes and larger financial flows) since states on the continent created the AU itself, it poses certain dangers. In particular, like SACU, the CCU envisaged in the AfCFTA Agreement will likely injure the economies of some of its member states. And, unless the AU delegates custom-design it carefully, bearing in mind the policy choices brought up in this piece and in older regional trade agreements, the CCU can prove prohibitively costly.
At the heart of the WTO system is the commitment to the foundational principles of MFN and national treatment. But in a world predicated upon national interest and economic power, the most powerful may not consider multilateral rule-based commitments to be optimal to the achievement of their national interests. One feature of the WTO dispute settlement system is that every Member of the WTO is entitled to have their dispute determined under agreed rules. This is a basic feature of rules-based dispute settlement. The rules, impartially applied, have no regard to the economic power of the parties. The settlement of disputes by recourse to rules of general application yield outcomes that do not depend upon which member is more powerful.