Archives For Non Tariff Barriers

ZIMRAaaaaaaaZimbabwe’s Deputy Finance and Economic Planning Minister Terrence Mukupe has estimated that the country has lost an estimated $20 million in revenue receipts since ZIMRA’s automated Customs processing system (ASYCUDA World) collapsed in the wake of server failure on 18 December 2017.

During a site visit of Beit Bridge border post earlier this week, it was revealed that ZIMRA collects an estimated $30million per month in Customs duties at its busy land borders. The Revenue Authority has since instituted manual procedures.  Clearing agents are submitting their customs documents accompanied by an undertaking that they will honour their duties within 48 hours. That is, when the ASYCUDA system is finally resuscitated and this is totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe lies at the heart of the North-South Corridor which handles a substantial volume of transit traffic. The threat of diversion due to lack of proper Customs control and opportunism will also create both a fiscal and security headache. The deputy minister stated that the government was considering abandoning the Ascyuda World Plus system to enhance efficiency and the ease of doing business. “We need to benchmark it with what our neighbours in the region are using”.

It has also been suggested that the ZIMRA board have been complacent in their oversight of the affair. While it is a simple matter to blame systems failure, the lack of management involvement in taking proactive steps to ensuring redundancy of the country’s most crucial revenue collection system has been found wanting.

This calamity undoubtedly signals a huge concern for several other African countries who are likewise supported by UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA software. Many question post implementation support from UNCTAD, leaving countries with the dilemma of having to secure third party vendor and, in some cases, foreign donor support to maintain these systems. The global donor agencies must themselves consider the continued viability of software systems which they sponsor. Scenarios such is this only serve to plunge developing countries into a bigger mess than that from which they came. This is indeed sad for Zimbabwe which was the pioneer of ASYCUDA in sub-Saharan Africa.

This development must surely be a concern not only for governments, but also the regional supply chain industry as a whole. While governments selfishly focus on lost revenue, little thought is given to the dire consequence of lost business and jobs which result in a more permanent outcome than the mere replacement of two computer servers.

Under such conditions, the WCOs slogan for 2018 “A secure business environment for economic development” will not resonate too well for Zimbabwean and other regional traders tomorrow (International Customs Day) affected by the current circumstances. Nonetheless, let this situation serve as a reminder to other administrations that management oversight and budgetary provisioning are paramount to maintaing automated systems – they underpin the supply chain as well as government’s fiscal policy.

Advertisements

containeryard

The U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF) and a coalition representing retailers, manufacturers, truckers, transportation intermediaries and other business groups has asked the Federal Maritime Commission to set new policy preventing terminal operators and ocean carriers from charging unfair fees when uncontrollable incidents such as storms and strikes keep cargo from being picked up from ports on time.

“Recent events involving port congestion, labor strife, an ocean carrier bankruptcy, inclement weather and other disruption events have had crippling effects on U.S. ports and the stakeholders who rely on the efficient movement of goods,” the 25-member Coalition for Fair Port Practices said in a petition filed with the commission. During the incidents, storage and use charges have continued “even though shippers, consignees and drayage providers had no control over the events that caused the ports to be inaccessible and prevented them from retrieving their cargo or returning equipment.”

Cargo owners and trucking companies are normally given a certain number of free days to pick up containers of imported goods from ports after they have been unloaded from ships. After that, they can be charged demurrage, a fee intended to ensure that containers are removed quickly and efficiently. In addition, detention and per diem fees can be charged if the cargo containers and chassis used to haul them are not returned within a specified time.

That system was thrown into disarray this fall when the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping left cargo owners unable to pick up containers on time and later prevented them from returning containers and chassis, says the NRF.

Delays have also occurred during other port disruptions cited in the petition, including the 2014-2015 labor slowdown at West Coast ports and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast in 2012.

The coalition said millions of dollars in fees have been charged during such incidents:

  • A retailer was charged $80,000 because it took up to nine days to retrieve containers when only four free days were allowed.
  • A trucking company was charged $1.2 million after long lines at New York and New Jersey ports kept it from returning containers on time.
  • A transportation company was charged $1.25 million after containers it tried to return were turned away at West Coast ports. The amount was eventually reduced to $250,000 but only a year after the company was forced to pay the fees upfront.

“Shippers, consignees and drayage providers do not create and cannot avoid these events,” the group said. “They cannot control the weather. They do not choose the terminals that carriers use. They are not parties to port labor collective bargaining agreements.”

The federal Shipping Act requires that the fees and related practices be “just and reasonable.” The petition asks the FMC to adopt a policy that would require free days to be extended during times of port congestion, weather-related events, port disruptions or delays caused by government actions or requirements beyond the control of the parties picking up or returning containers. Demurrage and similar fees charged during such incidents would be declared “unreasonable.” In some cases, “compensatory” fees could be charged provided that they did not exceed actual storage or equipment use costs. The proposed policy would apply to ocean carriers and marine terminal operators. Source: Maritime Executive

DTCRecent speculation concerning the Border Management Agency Bill have brought about reaction from both within government and industry. While there appears widespread support for a unified agency to administer South Africa’s borders, the challenge lies in the perceived administration of such agency given the specific mandates of the various border entities.

The Davis Tax Committee (DTC) was requested to provide a view on the affect of the proposed bill insofar as it impacts upon revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection for the fiscus of South Africa.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment, organisation, regulation and control of the Border Management Agency (BMA); to provide for the transfer, assignment, and designation of law enforcement border related functions to the BMA; and to provide for matters connected thereto. The functions of the BMA are (a) to perform border law enforcement functions within the borderline and at ports of entry; (b) to coordinate the implementation of its border law enforcement functions with the principal organs of state and may enter into protocols with those organs of state to do so; and (c) to provide an enabling environment to facilitate legitimate trade.

In short the DTC recommends that the functions and powers of SARS and the BMA be kept separate and that the Agency should not be assigned any of the current functions and powers of SARS with regard to revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection and the control of goods that is associated with such collection functions. Of particular concern is the extraordinarily poor timing of the Bill. According to the 2014 Tax Statistics issued by SARS, the total of customs duties, import VAT, and ad valorem import duties collected amounted to R176.9 billion for the 2013-14 fiscal year. This was approximately 19% of the total revenue collected.

The DTC is of the view that to put so significant a contribution to the fiscus in a position of uncertainty, if the Bill were to be  implemented, is fiscally imprudent at this critical juncture for the South African economy. Follow this link to access the full report on the DTC website. Source: www.taxcom.org.za

ZIMRAaaaaaaaThe implementation of the Government’s new pre-shipment regulations under the Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) programme (essentially a fancy term for plain old pre-shipment inspection – who they trying to fool?) took off with host of challenges last Tuesday. The new regulations that were gazetted into law on 18 December last year and requires that goods be tested for conformity with required standards prior importation into Zimbabwe, went into operation on 1 March.

Government introduced the programme with the view to reduce hazardous and substandard imported products and improve customs duty collection. Bureau Veritas has been appointed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for the verification and the assessment of conformity of goods in exporting countries.

The new developments have seen cargo piling up on the South African side of the border with most importers failing to produce the required transitional certificate of conformity. The Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri, called on the government to waive the implementation of the CBCA on goods that were shipped before it became operational.

“You will note that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has failed to enforce the regulations since 18 December last year only to try and implement it this week (last week) and that has resulted in a chaotic situation.

“It is sad that cargo is piling up at Beitbridge border post where most importers are having challenges in acquiring the transitional CBCA certificates,” he said.

Mr Musariri said the government introduced the idea on 27 July last year but could not implement it since there was no legislation to that effect.

He said under the new dispensation all products regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe exported into Zimbabwe must be accompanied by a CBCA certificate.

“The categories of goods regulated under the programme include the following: food and agriculture, building and civil engineering, petroleum and fuels , packaging material, electrical/electronic products, body care, automotive and transportation , clothing and textile and toys,” he said.

Mr Musariri said Zimra was now refusing to clear goods without the CBCA certificate and requesting for the conformity certificates.

“They are telling those importers to contact the nearest offices for Bureau Veritas for inspections and issuance of the requisite certificates.

“Locally destined cargo which is being shipped from various overseas markets is the worst affected and importers are incurring daily demurrage expenses of between $250 and $5000.

“In some cases duties had been paid to Zimra but now they are singing a different song,” he said.

The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Mike Bimha, could not be reached for comment.

Bureau VERITAS liaison officer for Zimbabwe, Mr Tendai Malunga, said his organisation was ready for the implementation of the CBCA programme.

“We have trained various stakeholders on the new programme and are ready to roll.

“Furthermore we have hired more staff in most countries to conduct inspections and various conformity tests on the various countries exporting goods to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

WTO LogoThe following article is published with the kind permission of the author, Tapia Naula who is Principal Transport Economist at African Development Bank, based in the Ivory Coast. He is an international project manager and transport economist with experience in logistics business, research and trade facilitation. This article is a must for anyone associated with or working on the TFA on the African sub-continent, and a bit of a wake up call to those countries who have as yet done little or nothing to progress their participation.

In the World TFA Cup Asia is leading Africa 72 – 35. The first scores of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement are out as member countries submit their Category A notifications. Initial results of the African first series are somewhat unfulfilling. Some teams are playing defensive even if attacking tactic is the only way to win.

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. Among trade facilitation practitioners the Agreement was received with great enthusiasm: finally there was a legal instrument, which is concrete enough to make a difference! TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process. Section I contains substantive provisions in 12 main Articles. The members are required to categorize and notify each provision of the Agreement as either A, B or C Category. The A Category commits a country to implement the provision upon entry into force of the TFA, or one year after for LDC’s. For B-Category there will be a transitional period. C-Category provisions are allowed a transitional period, technical assistance and capacity building.

First, let it be said loud and clear: the WTO TFA is an excellent collection of modern trade and transport facilitation instruments in one folder. In developing countries its implementation would mean reforms that would save time, money and efforts for regular business people and consumers. These reforms may be painful but the countries that can do it, will be the future winners of their regional competition and they will be the ones that will most benefit from joining the global value chains. TFA is the best vehicle for poverty reduction invented so far and that is why it is so important.

In August, 2015, 14 African countries and 25 Asian countries had submitted notifications for category A provisions. Asian countries had “accepted” 72 % of all the provisions as A-Category commitments on average where the respective share of the African countries is only 35 %. On Article-level African countries lag behind on every Article except one (Table 1).

In addition to the low overall share of category A-notifications, the African notifications generally look like “random picks” of sub-paragraphs, compared to many Asian members that have commonly chosen the strategy of basically accepting the whole Agreement and making exceptions for certain few paragraphs according to their particular needs.

Were African governments well-informed of the impact and substance of each paragraph – or are they just being cautious, perhaps trying to delay the final commitment? The patterns between African and Asian countries are in any case different.

Table 1

TFA includes also “low hanging fruit” – sections that require little technical expertise to be implemented. At least some of these should have been easy for member countries to accept. “Publication and Availability of Information” is one of those sections. Access to information through internet is routine and affordable. It should not require transition periods or particular technical assistance. Donors are even competing to assist governments with such low cost and high-return activities. Still, less than one third of the African Governments notified this Article.

Here are some other peculiar findings:

  • Out of 14 African countries only Morocco accepted “Border Agency Cooperation” as A –Category provision. Three of the others countries that did not notify it are landlocked countries;
  • Only four out of 14 African countries had fully notified “Freedom of Transit.” Transit challenges in Africa are probably the single most significant source of inefficiency in trade logistics;
  • One of the foundations of modern customs management is the introduction of Risk Management. Only 3 out of 14 African countries had notified this provision;
  • Only Morocco notified Trade Facilitation Measures for Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), which gives certain privileges to traders and transport operators, who show high level of compliance to regulations. One wonders why Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania did not notify it as we know that an AEO program is being piloted in the East African Community;
  • Only Senegal notified the sub-Article on Single Window, which is probably the most important one of the whole Agreement. Senegal perhaps deserves this honor – being the first truly African-based single window country – and also representing the good practice of SW management. Yet, according to the African Alliance for e-Commerce, currently there are at least 16 other single windows either already operational or under development in Africa. Why weren’t these developments recognized?

Despite the above “peculiarities” the African situation is fortunately nowhere near as somber as the A-Category notifications indicate. There are plenty of trade and transport facilitation initiatives under implementation – and Africa is indeed “on the Move.” We should on one hand side make sure that the valuable TFA Agreement is not becoming a separate formal process alongside the practical actions on the ground, but rather a framework for coaching governments in climbing up the stairs toward greater competitiveness. On the other hand, the countries should not ignore the existing achievements. A lot has been achieved in Africa in recent years and this process should go on and gain speed. Some sub-regions, which have been less successful in this field need  benchmarks, encouraging and coaching. This is where African and international organizations can play a role.

Although the direct cost of TFA implementation is relatively low, the indirect cost may be extremely high. The indirect cost concerns existing structures, which generate income for organizations and individuals, who often greatly benefit from the status quo. Some governments have entered into concessions outsourcing critical government functions such as pre-customs clearance operations and processing and submissions of declarations to customs. Western firms have efficiently seized the opportunity and negotiated deals, which guarantee profits for in many cases for decades to come. Single Windows in certain countries are good examples for these. In an unnamed Southern African country for example, humanitarian aid is exempt from taxes and duties in import. If however a UN agency for example imports a container of pharmaceuticals worth five million USD, it will have to pay for a Single Window fee of 42,500 USD! Such Ad Valorem fee arrangements are against the TFA. Such concessions are often built inside structures, which profit from the concessions and in exchange – protects its operations and continuity. This is why they are difficult to tackle. This is an example of the problematics that African policy makers must deal with when taking a position in committing in TFA provisions. It may be a whole lot more complicated than what it looks like.

Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.
Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.

The diagram above shows the association of share of the provisions that have been covered by A-Category notifications and the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of the countries. For African countries the correlation is moderate (correlation co-efficient: 0.42) but for Asian countries the association is strong (correlation co-efficient: 0.73). The association of the two variables is understandable: the less corruption a country has (the higher the CPI rank is), the more reforms the government is in liberty to conduct (the higher coverage of TFA as A-category Notifications).

We need to better understand the underlying reasons why policymakers cannot let reforms take off. Traditions, corruption and outdated structures are usually the biggest obstacles. These cannot be overcome by merely providing short-term technical assistance and bench-marking the world best practices but only strong political leadership can make the change. Developing partners should raise this topic on the highest political level and “live together” through the reforms with the counterparts.

The Northern Corridor (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) provides an encouraging example how multiple reforms can be carried out in very short time. Only two years ago it took staggering 27 days to transport a container from Mombasa Port and deliver it in Kigali, Rwanda. Today it takes only seven days. The improvement was enabled by series of reforms, which were championed by the Heads of States of the Corridor member countries. The example proves that major improvements can indeed be achieved in very short time. On the other hand, even with the most sophisticated instruments, reforms will not succeed if there the high-level ownership is not there. Author: Tapio Naula

Zimbabwe-flagZimbabwe has introduced custom-control measures aimed at reducing the inflow of smuggled and inferior goods, and boosting its revenue from customs duty. Goods being exported to Zimbabwe will have to undergo consignment verification from May 16.

The government’s customs officials are also tightening up inspections at the Beitbridge border post to stem the flow of cheap, illegal goods, which Zimbabwean companies blame for their financial woes.

Executive chairman of the European Union Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Africa Stefan Sakoschek said on Thursday that “the general idea is for Zimbabwe to protect its borders from substandard goods, as well as from undervaluation”.

Mr Sakoschek said the consignment-based conformity assessment programme fell within the framework of the World Trade Organisation’s technical barriers to trade as well as the regulations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Exporters and clearing agents have been informed of the new consignment verification measures, which will ensure conformity to standards and the value of goods declared. A certificate will be issued for the consignments for presentation to customs officials on arrival in Zimbabwe. Goods without a certificate will be refused entry.

Targeted products include food and agricultural goods, building and civil engineering products, timber and timber products, petroleum and fuel, packaging materials, electrical and electronic appliances, body care products, automotive and transportation goods, clothing and textiles, engineering equipment, mechanical appliances and toys.

Trade Law Chambers director Rian Geldenhuys said the pre-shipment verification process would entail additional costs but should not contribute to further delays in shipment. Consignment verification was widely practised especially in developing countries as a way to ensure the collection of customs duty revenue, Mr Geldenhuys said.

“Underinvoicing is a huge problem throughout the world, especially least developed and developing countries which Zimbabwe is one of,” he said.

Trade Law Centre researcher Willemien Viljoen also said the assessments would entail additional costs. Much of the effect would depend on how the conformity assessments were implemented and the standards that would be applied, Ms Viljoen said.

The Zimbabwean government has appointed well-recognised French company Bureau Veritas as the conformity assessment company for verification purposes, and has given the assurance that “compliant exporters will be able to benefit from fast-track procedures reducing systematic intervention on their frequent exports to Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha was quoted by the Zimbabwean press as saying that Zimbabwe was being “flooded with sub-standard imports which do not meet quality, safety, health and environmental standards”.

These goods had a negative effect on the country’s economic development and the competitiveness of its industries, Mr Bimha said.

In terms of its four-year agreement with Bureau Veritas the Zimbabwean government will receive monthly royalty fees equivalent to 5% of all monies received for its services. This arrangement will eventually lapse when the Zimbabwe Standards Regulatory Authority is established to monitor and control imports, exports and local goods to ensure compliance with quality, health, safety and environmental standards. Bureau Veritas operates in 140 countries and offers pre-shipment services to SA, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. Source: BDLive (Reporter: Linda Ensor)

Read also the following articles, published in Zimbabwean Situation – Govt moves to tighten border controls (September 2014) as well as Zim mulls one-stop border post (November 2014) which might suggest that entry arrival procedures at Zimbabwean ports of entry may not be that expeditious given a prominent focus on revenue collection.

international-trade1The role of the private sector in the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) will be the focus of the 2015 edition of the Global Facilitation Partnership for Transportation and Trade (GFP) meeting. With the world’s customs administrations currently identifying their respective TFA  implementation commitments and setting up National Trade Facilitation Committees, trade and logistics operators can learn how they can participate in such initiatives by attending these sessions.

The GFP meeting will be held at Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 22 April, and will be divided into three thematic sessions.

The first session, ‘Governments’ Priorities: Strategies for Fostering Private Sector Participation in the TFA Implementation Process’ will look at how governments are planning to implement the TFA.

It will focus on how the private sector is consulted and how an effective participation of the private sector can be facilitated to implement the Agreement.

The second session, ‘Priorities, Perspectives, and Expectations from the Private Sector on TFA Implementation’ will assess how the private sector – including large corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises – view TFA implementation. It will look at the potential benefits from a private-sector perspective, and how the sector can contribute to national and international initiatives to implement the agreement.

The third session, ‘International Organizations’ Co-ordination and Partnership for Supporting TFA Implementation’, will provide an opportunity to share information and experiences on how the TFA can be implemented with public-private partnerships in mind, as how national trade facilitation committees can better support this process.

ITC invites all interested stakeholders to join the GFP meeting at the Palais des Nations on 22 April from 9:00. Click here for link to online registration.

Source: International Trade Centre (Geneva)

SADC organizes a Customs Training of Trainers Course on NTBs in cooperation with the WCO [SADC]

SADC organizes a Customs Training of Trainers Course on NTBs in cooperation with the WCO [SADC]

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) organized a Training Course under its Customs Training of Trainers (TOT) Programme between 17 to 20 November 2014 at its Headquarters (Gaborone, Botswana). The training was conducted in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the WCO Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the Eastern and Southern Africa Region, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Forty-two senior Customs officers from 13 of SADC’s 15 Member States, many of whom are active in their administrations’ training departments, participated in the Training Course.

The main objective of the TOT Programme is to provide technical and professional support, particularly in view of the contribution by Customs administrations to the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area and the successful implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade. This will be achieved through the TOT Course on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), which continue to be major stumbling blocks to trade in the region and many of which are Customs-related (or perceived as such). Participants who complete the Training Course will disseminate the knowledge gained, at national level, to relevant stakeholders including Customs officers from their own administrations.

Participants learnt the basic principles and definition of Non-Tariff Measures and NTBs, covering the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and inter-regional initiatives such as the online NTB monitoring mechanism and national monitoring committees. They also gained an overview of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA) recently concluded under the auspices of the WTO. The WCO gave an introduction to its tools and instruments for applying trade facilitation measures and to the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC). Particular emphasis was placed on the new Transit Handbook and the TFA Implementation Guidance.

The course was highly interactive and participants shared their views on the importance of global standards to facilitate regional integration and various trade facilitation measures. They discussed how they could promote Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and increase public-private dialogue at national and regional level. Source: WCO

EAC-logoSince July 2014, EAC revenue officers work together to facilitate trade within the community. Some improvements remain made; the Single Customs Territory (SCT) does present some advantages. Since the single customs territory is operational, clearing processes are established in the country of destination while the goods are still at the port of Dar es Salaam”, explains Leah Skauki, a SCT liaison officer at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

Once the declaration is over, when custom duties and taxes are paid, TRA verifies the physical goods. “The office grants a notification testifying that the goods fulfil all requirements in order to get the exit note.” Within the new system, the number of weighbridges and non-tariff barriers are reduced because “truck drivers only have to show the documents which certify that the goods have undergone verification.”

Massoundi Mohamed Ben Ali, Administrative Director in Charge of Human Resources and Import – Export at the Bakhresa Grain Milling Burundi, is pleased with the new development. “Before the system was implemented, Bakhresa used to import 3800 Tonnes of wheat (40 trucks) and we were obliged to declare each truck with a different clearing agent. We now fill in one statement with one clearing agent. The procedures are done quickly with a small of amount of money”, he points out.

Clearing agents testify that the number of statement on the borders is reduced. “Before, transporters had to fill in a transit declaration (T1) on each border”, one of the clearing agents in the Dares Salaam port relates.

Aimable Nsabimana, a focal point of SCT in Dar es Salaam for the Burundi Revenue Authority, indicates that the computerised system they use is different in each country.”It is not easy to exchange data. We are forced to print documents for verification. And when the goods arrive in Tanzania, they are in the hands of the TRA which has its own software”, he notes.

Inter-connectivity of software would facilitate verification and avoid fraud. This opinion is shared by many clearing agents: “If we were interconnected, the Tanzanians would be able to easily access Burundian data and vice versa”, one of them says.

Léonce Niyonzima, programme and monitoring officer at OBR and the national coordinator of SCT, agrees that the lack of interconnectivity causes delays in the transmission of documents.

He says that all EAC countries should have been interconnected by June 2014, but due to technical problems Tanzania and Burundi still lag behind. “There is a technical committee responsible for monitoring and evaluation which will draw up the balance sheet of the challenges before ending the pilot stage at the end of this year.”

The Single Customs Territory is funded by Trademark East Africa with an amount of USD 450 thousand for the redeployment of staff, travel expenses, inspection and supervision, information technology, office equipment and assistance. Source: http://www.iwacu-burundi.org

ICCThe International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has released the results of its survey ‘What border barriers impede business ability?’. The analyses highlights common impediments to cross border trading that can be taken into consideration when determining how barriers to trade can be reduced to stimulate global economic growth.

The ICC recognises that the survey results are neither statistically valid nor entirely representative of the hundreds of thousands of organizations that trade globally, the survey does much to reveal a set of common prerequisites – such as predictability, reliability and consistency – that international traders seek. The ICC concludes that there is a need for further capacity-building efforts, in particular education and availability of information for both traders and border control officials on the correct process to follow. The survey results illustrates the need for an effective customs-business dialogue at national level to find ways to lessen delays in trade processes and shorten release times, as called for by ICC.

The survey coincides with a number of international developments seeking to facilitate trade and simplify border procedures. These include the conclusion of a multilateral agreement on trade facilitation at the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in December 2013 and the ongoing negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Negotiations. Source: International Chamber of Commerce

Parliment, Cape Town (Eye Witness News)

Parliament, Cape Town (Eye Witness News)

Government has decided to prioritise the passage of eight bills through Parliament. The bills deal with land restitution, labour relations, and customs and excise.

There are currently 42 bills before the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. With the fourth Parliament set to be dissolved ahead of looming general elections, Members of Parliament (MPs) are unlikely to deal with all 42 bills.

A statement just released by the ANC’s office in Parliament to the media states –

“The African National Congress in Parliament has taken note of the huge parliamentary workload which the institution has to process in the next few months before the expiry of the current five-year term of parliament. In terms of the Constitution, the current term of Parliament is set to end ahead of the 2014 national elections. The workload confronting the institution includes committee oversights, constituency programmes, adoption of committee reports, debates on the state of the nation address and the budget, and finalisation and adoption of Bills.”

“Currently, there are 24 Bills before the National Assembly (NA) and 18 currently before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) – which is a total of 42 Bills the institution must pass before the elections. Our view is that all these Bills are important and therefore the institution should spare neither strength nor effort in ensuring they are processed qualitatively and thoroughly to ensure that they are converted into laws within the stipulated period. We are however alive to the possibility that not all these Bills may be passed in the next few remaining months of parliament.”

“We have therefore sought to prioritise the following Bills, which we believe Parliament should give special attention to ensure they are passed into laws. In terms of the rules of Parliament, Bills that are not passed within the current term of Parliament may be resuscitated in the next parliamentary term. This will be done for those Bills that might not be passed during this term.”

“In determining priority Bills, we have looked at criteria such as complexity, contentiousness, technicality, effect on provinces, and requirement for exhaustive consultation. [Three of the eight bills relate to Customs and Excise]

  1. Customs Control Bill of 2013 – The Customs Control Bill is intended to replace certain provisions of the Customs and Excise Act of 1964 relating to customs control of all means of transport, goods and persons entering or leaving South Africa. The Bills aims to ensure that taxes imposed by various other laws on imported or exported goods are collected and that various other laws regulating imports and exports of goods are complied with. To ensure effective implementation of customs control, the Bill provides for elaborate systems for customs processing of goods at places of entry and exit such as seaports, airports and land border posts;
  2. Customs Duty Bill of 2013 – The Customs Duty Bill is intended to replace certain provisions of the Customs and Excise Act of 1964 which relates to the imposition and collection of imports and export duties. The Bill primarily aims to provide for the levying, payment and recovery of import and export duties on goods imported or exported from South Africa. The Bill will be dealt with in terms of Section 77 of the Constitution; and
  3. Customs and Excise Amendment Bill of 2013 – The Customs and Excise Amendment Bill seeks to amend the provisions of the Customs and Excise Act of 1964 and to remove from the Act all the provisions that have now been incorporated into both the Customs Control Bill and the Customs Duty Bill. Essentially, because the Customs and Excise Amendment Act of 1964 strongly reflected rigidity reminiscent of the apartheid era controls, which are unsuitable to the current modern control systems, it has been split into both the Customs Control Bill and the Customs Duty Bill. The Customs and Excise Amendment Act of 1964 will for now be retained in an amended form for the continued administration of excise duties and relevant levies until it is completely replaced with a new law in future (i.e. Excise Duty Bill).”

Source: Excerpt of a press statement of the Office of the Chief Whip of the ANC, Parliament.

SAIIA PaperGauging from the title of this SAIIA report, it is the first time I ever saw the use of private sector entities as the vehicle for delivery. A nice and welcomed approach. While the report tends towards technical analysis, it does provide some sound thoughts on the extent of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) outside of the traditional barriers such as antidumping duties, quantitative restrictions, import levies. In fact the report focusses on licensing rules, import permits, standards as well  and customs procedures.These NTBs are likely to be less transparent but more prevalent and representative of the constraints Southern African traders face in selling merchandise across borders on a day-to-day basis.

It is interesting to see that corruption features in at least 3 out of the 4 NTBs by category identified by the private sector. While the quest for more automation at borders is definitely feasible, the question of limitation of human intervention at the border will undoubtedly be a stumbling block in many countries. It requires some political will to actually do something about the “rot” at borders. To access the report please visit the SAIIA website

The paper provides an overview of the incidence and impact of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The analysis draws on the growing body of literature on NTBs pertaining to regional trade in Southern and Eastern Africa, but importantly it supplements this with the experience of the private sector in the region. It reviews the current processes and achievements in addressing NTBs within Southern Africa. Practical measures are proposed to facilitate the removal of NTBs within Southern Africa, informed by the lessons from other regions. Source: South African Institute of International Affairs.

The folk at Tralac have provided some welcomed insight to the challenges and the pains in regard to ‘regionalisation’. No doubt readers in Member States will be familiar with these issues but powerless within themselves to do anything due to conflict with national imperatives or agendas. Much of this is obvious, especially the ‘buzzwords’ – globally networked customs, one stop border post, single window, cloud computing, and the plethora of WCO standards, guidelines and principles – yet, the devil always lies in the details. While the academics have walked-the-talk, it remains to be seen if the continent’s governments have the commitment to talk-the-walk!

Regional integration is a key element of the African strategy to deal with problems of underdevelopment, small markets, a fragmented continent and the absence of economies of scale. The agreements concluded to anchor such inter-state arrangements cover mainly trade in goods; meaning that trade administration focuses primarily on the physical movement of merchandise across borders. The services aspects of cross-border trade are neglected. And there are specific local needs such as the wide-spread extent of informal trading across borders.

Defragmenting Africa WBThis state of affairs calls for specific governance and policy reforms. Effective border procedures and the identification of non-tariff barriers will bring major cost benefits and unlock huge opportunities for cross-border trade in Africa. The costs of trading remain high, which prevents potential exporters from competing in global and regional markets. The cross-border production networks which are a salient feature of development in especially East Asia have yet to materialise in Africa.

Policy makers have started paying more attention to trade-discouraging non-tariff barriers, but why does the overall picture still show little progress? The 2012 World Bank publication De-Fragmenting Africa – Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services shows that one aspect needs to be singled out in particular:  that trade facilitation measures have become a key instrument to create a better trading environment.

The main messages of this WB study are:

  • Effective regional integration is more than simply removing tariffs – it is about addressing on-the-ground constraints that paralyze the daily operations of ordinary producers and traders.
  • This calls for regulatory reform and, equally important, for capacity building among the institutions that are charged with enforcing the regulations.
  • The integration agenda must cover services as well as goods……services are critical, job-creating inputs into the competitive edge of almost all other activities.
  • Simultaneous action is required at both the supra-national and national levels. Regional communities can provide the framework for reform, for example, by bringing together regulators to define harmonised standards or to agree on mutual      recognition of the qualification of professionals……. but responsibility for implementation lies with each member country.

African governments are still reluctant to implement the reforms needed to address these issues. They are sensitive about loss of ‘sovereign policy space’ and are not keen to establish supra-national institutions. They are also opposed to relaxing immigration controls. The result is that border control functions have been exercised along traditional lines and not with sufficient emphasis on trade facilitation benefits. This is changing but specific technical and governance issues remain unresolved, despite the fact that the improved border management entails various technical aspects which are not politically sensitive.

The required reforms involve domestic as well as regional dimensions. Regional integration is a continental priority but implementation is compounded by legal and institutional uncertainties and burdens caused by overlapping membership of Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The monitoring of compliance remains a specific challenge. Continue Reading…

imagesCA31PQJGThe Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies briefed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry regarding the progress on the implementation of the five-point plan in Cape Town. This is a work programme which was approved by the 2nd Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) Summit convened by President Zuma in 2011 premised on the following pillars;

  1. Work programme on cross-border industrial development;
  2. Trade facilitation;
  3. Development of SACU institutions;
  4. Unified engagement in trade negotiations and
  5. The review of the revenue sharing arrangement.

The five-point plan emerged from realization by SACU Member States of a need to move SACU beyond an arrangement held together only by the common external tariffs and the revenue sharing arrangement to an integration project that promotes real economy development in the region.

Minister Davies noted that progress on the implementation of pillars of the five- point plan is uneven. SACU has registered good progress on trade facilitation and there is greater unity of purpose in negotiations with third parties (Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), SACU-India and Tripartite Free Trade Area).

However, there is limited progress on the review of the revenue sharing arrangement and hence lack of adequate financial support for the implementation of cross-border industrial and infrastructure development projects. The SACU revenue pool is raised by South Africa from customs and excise duties. Mr Davies told MPs that in 2013-14 the total disbursement from the revenue pool would be about R70bn of which the BLNS countries would receive about R48bn. There is also lack of progress on the development of SACU institutions as a result of divergences in policy perspectives and priorities of Member States.

Enabling provisions provide for the establishment of National Bodies and a SACU Tariff Board. The SACU Tariff Board will make recommendations to Council on tariffs and trade remedies. Davies added that, until these institutions are established, functions are delegated to the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) in SA.

The minister warned that the lack of agreed policies would hinder effective decision-making on regional integration and industrialisation, which had made little progress since the 2011 summit convened by President Jacob Zuma. South Africa believes SACU needs to move “firmly towards a deeper development and integration”.

Minister Davies said SACU risked becoming “increasingly irrelevant” as an institution if it did not develop beyond operating a common external tariff, and a “highly redistributive” revenue-sharing arrangement. The lack of progress in developing new SACU institutions was primarily due to policy and priority differences among members. “Against this background South Africa needs to reassess how best to advance development and integration in SACU.”

Among the disagreements on tariff setting between South Africa and its neighbours highlighted by Mr Davies, was that South Africa saw tariffs as a tool of industrial policy while they regarded them as a means of raising revenue. For example, the other Sacu members wanted to include the revenue “lost” on import tariff rebates offered by South Africa into the revenue pool.

The pool provides these countries with a major source of their national budget. Rebates were seen as revenue foregone for which additional compensation should be sought. South Africa, on the other hand, argues that the rebates (for example on automotive imports) are part of its total tariff package and serve to attract investment and boost imports and therefore, contribute to expanding the revenue pool, not diminishing it.

He emphasised the development of a common approach on trade and industrial policy as the prerequisite for establishing effective SACU institutions in future.

He highlighted that a discussion on appropriate decision-making procedures on sensitive trade and industry matters that takes into account SACU-wide impacts is required. Source: The Department of Trade & Industry, and BD Live.

Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Notwithstanding on-going discontent amongst industry operators in regard to proposed legislative measures mandating customs clearance at first port of entry, the South African government (GCIS) reports that work has already commenced on a massive logistics corridor stretching between Durban and the central provinces of the Free State and Gauteng. Most of the projects that form part of the second Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP 2), also known as the Durban-Free State-Johannesburg Logistics and Industrial Corridor, are still in the concept or pre-feasibility stage, but construction has already started on several projects.

These include:

  • the building of a R2,3 billion container terminal at City Deep
  • a R3,9 billion project to upgrade Pier 2 at the Port of Durban
  • R14,9 billion procurement of rolling stock for the rail line which will service the corridor.

Work has also started on the R250 million Harrismith logistics hub development to set up a fuel distribution depot, as well as on phase one of the new multi-product pipeline which will run between Johannesburg and Durban and transport petrol, diesel, jet fuel and gas.

The aim of these projects and others which form part of SIP 2, is to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs and to improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities. It is estimated that 135 000 jobs will be created in the construction of projects in the corridor. Once the projects are completed a further 85 000 jobs are expected to be created by those businesses that use the new facilities. Source: SA Government Information Service

Interested in more details regarding South Africa’s infrastructure development plan? Click here!