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.
Rules of Origin
This symposium evaluates some of the key trade facilitation issues that member countries need to effectively address in order to ensure the AfCFTA’s success.
On November 15, 2020, 15 nations signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement. The signatories comprise the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.This post will highlight three significant aspects of the agreement: market access opportunities; increased opportunities for intra-agreement supply chains; and implications for the United States as a non-participant.
More significant than trade liberalisation is the RCEP’s geopolitical statement. Initial commentary from the West has mostly misread the signal, with narratives that the RCEP is a huge economic and political win for China, that the RCEP was a China-led initiative to counter the TPP, and that the agreement provides further evidence of a rising China and a global geopolitical shift – all of which misrepresent the reality of the agreement and overstate reality.
Although COVID-19 is currently making IAT difficult due to restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods, the pandemic justifies enhanced IAT. The situation helps Africa realize the benefits of IAT due to the trade restrictions put in place by our major trading partners who are mainly outside Africa. Most of all, it will help Africa appreciate the good in initiatives put in place to enhance IAT.
This new Continental Free Trade bloc is now entrusted with the competence to engage other FTA Blocs such as the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Association of South Eastern Nations (ASEAN), on trade policy from an Afri-Centric perspective - the essence of Afri-Multilateralism. Hitherto, the various national governments across the Continent had engaged global trade from the prism of nationalistic interests but this new paradigm affords Africa, for the first time, an opportunity to engage on trans-Sahara, trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific negotiations on an equal footing, and not under the auspices of 'emerging countries' or LDCs.
This blog post does not focus on the different reasons that makes integration difficult. Rather, it argues that the structure of the agreements of African Union (AU) contributes to the lack of political commitment among leaders which has been a missing ingredient for successful integration in Africa.
The first seeming obstacle to the emergence of a single African market is the contradictions between the stated aims of AfCFTA and some of the principles set out in the AfCFTA Agreement. As noted earlier, AfCFTA’s objectives include creating “a single market” and laying “the foundations for the establishment of a Continental Customs Union”. Yet, one of the principles under Article 5 is “variable geometry”, that is, differentiated integration. Of course, variable geometry was designed to recognise the heterogeneity and diversity in Africa’s economies. However, a single market is not consistent with an a la carte approach, where members integrate at different speeds.