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.
Protocol on Trade in Goods
The reading of the travaux préparatoires of Article XXI GATT indicates that the GATT Contracting Parties did not envisage that a global pandemic such as a virus could amount to a national security exception under the said Article. However, the drafters of GATT 1947 cannot be put to blame since no global health crisis has ever necessitated the applicability of the Article. The 2020 Corona virus (Covid 19) is an example of a global health crisis. In response to the crisis and in a bid to protect their nationals, states are restricting the exportation of medical related equipment. This amounts to quantitative restrictions which is a violation of the World Trade Organisation rules of trade. This paper analyses such measures in lieu of WTO member’s obligations.
The adoption of imprecise and relaxed SDT provisions that can easily provide leeway for countries to evade SDT obligations will only work contrary to the stated objective of the Agreement to promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development among State Parties. Just as Amartya Sen correctly puts it, “the central issue of contention is not globalization itself, nor is it the use of the market as an institution, but the inequity in the overall balance of institutional arrangements—which produces very unequal sharing of the benefits of globalization”