The World Customs Organization with the support of the European Union under the EU-WCO Rules of Origin Africa Programme has developed a quick guide to the private sector to assist with the practical implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement Annex 2 on Rules of Origin of the Protocol on Trade and its relevant appendices.
The main objectives of the AfCFTA Agreement are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of a Customs Union in the future.
At the invitation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, the World Customs Organization (WCO) gave a presentation on international standards for the drafting of tools and instruments on rules of origin at a virtual workshop on the drafting of the AfCFTA Rules of Origin Handbook held on Monday 21 February 2022.
In her welcoming address, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Rules of Origin expressed her profound gratitude and thanks to the AfCFTA’s partner organizations, such as the WCO and UNCTAD, as well as to the Regional Economic Communities (COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS and the SADC) which had kindly accepted the invitation to share their experience of drafting rules of origin handbooks.
She reminded those taking part that Article 8.3 of the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area laid down that any additional instruments, within the scope of that Agreement, deemed necessary, are to be concluded in furtherance of the objectives of the AfCFTA and will, upon adoption, form an integral part of the Agreement. In accordance with Article 13 of the Protocol on Trade in Goods, discussions among the negotiating bodies had led to the adoption of Annex 2 on Rules of Origin and of close to 88% of the tariff lines constituting Annex IV. She also emphasized that both of those legal documents on rules of origin had to be made operational through the use of the Rules of Origin Handbook.
With a view to the implementation of Annex 2 on Rules of Origin of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, she went on to stress that the 8th Meeting of the Council of Ministers, held on 28 January 2022, had decided that the work on drafting the AfCFTA’s Rules of Origin Handbook had to be given priority.
Accordingly, under Item 3 on the Agenda, the WCO gave a talk on the drafting of rules of origin handbooks, presenting some practical cases that explained the international standards applied in drawing up its tools. There was then a question-and-answer session in which the delegates from Customs administrations, trade and industry were able to have a fuller exchange on the subject of good practices on which the AfCFTA could draw in finalizing the drafting of the Rules of Origin Handbook.
The workshop was attended by more than 150 delegates, for whom it was an opportunity to learn more about good practices in relation to the drafting of operational handbooks on rules of origin, with a view to making proposals for improvements to the AfCFTA handbook, on the basis, too, of the experiences of the WCO, UNCTAD and the African RECs.
The workshop came before the 5th Meeting of the Sub-Committee on Rules of Origin to be held from 22 to 25 February 2022, at which the handbook in question would have to be drawn up in order to facilitate the implementation of AfCFTA rules of origin and thereby boost intra-African trade.
The WCO has published the 96th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.
This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on cross-border e-commerce, in other words those “transactions which are effected digitally through a computer network (e.g. the internet), and result in physical goods flows subject to Customs formalities”. We have invited several administrations to share information on the initiatives they are taking to build their capacity for monitoring the compliance of such flows. Despite every country’s situation being unique, we still believe that it is important to share experiences and explain initiatives.
The “Panorama” section addresses a broad variety of topics such as rules or origin, goods classification, training and reforms. It also includes two articles which respectively present, from a Customs perspective, two recent regional Free Trade Agreements: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The “Focus” section brings together two articles dealing with non-intrusive inspection (NII). In the first one, the WCO Secretariat shows how some Customs administrations and manufacturers manage the decommissioning of NII equipment when it has reached the end of its life. The second article describes the challenges of X-ray image analysis and the value of training.
Lastly, in the “Point of View” section, Dutch Customs explains the structure of the ISO Audit Data Collection Standard and why it supports the Standard’s extension to cover data related to Customs and indirect tax audits, while an attorney from Israel argues that governments should consider waiving taxes on transport costs until we are back to “normal” and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer being felt.
The WCO has published the 95th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s magazine aimed at the global Customs community, providing a selection of informative articles that bring the international Customs and trade world to life.
This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on “People”, and includes several articles discussing experiences, tools and practices related to Human Resource management and development. We hope this will inspire readers to take action and contribute to creating a work environment which enables people to continue growing professionally and to learn new skills that will benefit their organization, their country and the global community.
In the “Panorama” section, Algeria Customs introduces its advance ruling system for the classification of goods, Belarus Customs explains how its role in border management has developed, and a private company gives an overview of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System launched in Mozambique.
Given that the WCO Secretariat organized the second edition of its Global Origin Conference in March 2021, we decided to dedicate the “Focus” section of the magazine to rules of origin. It opens with an article highlighting the key points made by the Conference speakers and continues with articles on advance rulings, problems associated with non-preferential rules and the joint proposal for the review of Specific Annex K to the Revised Kyoto Convention.
Lastly, in the “Point of View” section, Argentina Customs explains how it has increased its participation in WCO committees and working groups following the move to online meetings, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations presents some of the challenges facing freight forwarders, and a software engineer shares his views on data analytics tools and how to make them work for all.