SADC Customs Training Course on NTBs in cooperation with the WCO

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

Non-Tariff Barriers – SADC Secretariat requested to intervene in Mozambique

0b8a0ce6140c04b4f629a97cb5e8d8f34e69d4a1The SADC, COMESA and EAC Tripartite alliance has been urged by various Zimbabwean, Zambian and Malawian exporters to salvage a potential crippling situation occurring at Mozambique borders. This follows the recent implementation of a new transit bond guarantee system which in conjunction with the Single Window system is allegedly causing significant delays, including loss of business and spiralling demurrage for transit goods emanating from these landlocked countries, en route for export from various Mozambique ports, Beira in particular.

Complaint no. NTB-000-578 in terms of ‘Lengthy and costly customs clearance procedures’ was lodged and can be viewed in full on the Tripartite’s NTB portal. Amongst the various problems sited, the complainants request the following of Mozambique –

  • Mozambique Ministry of Finance is requested to get customs to consider a parallel system to run with the electronic single window programme to clear the backlog in Beira port now and also consider providing release against Report orders to reduce further downtime in port . This will be a stop-gap measure until the customs staff are well versed , fully trained and that the new system can work well.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with Cornelder to consider waiving storage for this special situation or at least offer 75% credit on the bills due which I must say are now astronomical based on the days the cargo has stayed in port both imports and exports.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements with shipping lines to consider waiving completely the demurrage due on the empty containers or at least give say 15-21 more days grace period before demurrage starts accruing.
  • Mozambique authorities to facilitate arrangements that Mozambique customs get technical assistance to assist roll this new programme out without causing huge catastrophes like this.

Mozambique has acknowledged the complaint and expressed regret over the developments. Mozambique reported that the issue was receiving urgent attention and they would provide feed back shortly.

EAC to punish Member States enforcing non-tariff barriers

Uganda, Malaba border crossing

Uganda, Malaba border crossing

The New Vision (Uganda) reports on a draft law which will punish countries that fail to implement agreed upon mechanisms to eliminate trade barriers has been submitted at the regional Parliament.

Jose Maciel, the TradeMark East Africa director of trade facilitation, noted that while most of the non-tariff barriers (NTBs), including road blocks and corruption have slightly declined, the proposed law in the East African Legislative Assembly, if enacted, would create the possibility of sanctions against stubborn states that do not enforce the check points. “It is important to give teeth to the system. We need to make it possible to impose sanctions for countries that do not eliminate NTBs,” said Maciel.

He was speaking at a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) organised meeting with EAC media in Mombasa. TradeMark is a trade facilitating agency operating in the five states of East Africa. Maciel said non-tariff barriers like road blocks, which are easy to eradicate, are some of the biggest impediments to East Africa’s competitiveness.

States are not the only defaulting party to agreed upon positions on eliminating NTBs. P.J. Shah, a Mombasa entrepreneur, for instance notes that while Mombasa began 24-hour operations about three years ago, other agencies like banks and shipping lines are not operating 24 hours. The poor infrastructure such as rail and water systems, whose potential is yet to be optimised, also increase trade costs. Other NTBs include weighbridges and corrupt state enforcement agencies.

Regional trade experts and facilitation agencies such as Trade Mark East Africa agree that NTBs are known, and numerous researches have been done about them and their impact on trade. Although some efforts have been made to eradicate or reduce the salient ones such as road blocks, overall NTBs remain a major trade impediment.

Two thirds of goods are shipped in containers. TradeMark estimates that 20% of annual shipments face NTBs. TradeMark is also targeting to work with regional governments to harmonise 20 standards in a year, amongst the other efforts at making EAC more competitive.

During the Mombasa meeting, it was agreed that because sometimes there seems to be no communication between the different government agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and KPA, hinterland states suffer.

There should be a single authority that oversees them all and ensures enforcement. There are about 24 road blocks between Mombasa and Uganda’s border and another 21 in Uganda, four in Burundi and two in Rwanda. There are also 12 weighbridges in Kenya, five in Uganda and two in Rwanda.

“A well run efficient port can help shape economic growth and performance of the economy,” said Antony Hughes, a TradeMark official.

Mombasa handles about 20 million tonnes of cargo, 85% destined for Uganda and other hinterland states. Transit states always suffer the biggest brunt of NTBs and poor flow of information regarding imminent disruptions at the border. This was witnessed during the recent cash bond imposed by KRA that caught Uganda traders unaware, leading to massive clog ups of cargo and huge loss of value.

Comment: It appears that regional bodies such as the EAC are to get extraordinary powers to enforce rules over sovereign states. Would be interesting to learn whether these member states voted for such action, or if it is rather the ideal and persuasion of ‘foreign’ interests.

World Trade Report 2012

This year’s World Trade Report ventures beyond tariffs to examine other policy measures that can affect trade. As tariffs have fallen in the years since the birth of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1948, attention has progressively shifted towards non-tariff measures (NTMs). The range of NTMs is vast, complex, driven by multiple policy motives, and ever-changing. Public policy objectives underlying NTMs have evolved. The drivers of change are many, including greater inter-dependency in a globalizing world, increased social awareness, and growing concerns regarding health, safety, and environmental quality. Many of these factors call for a deepening of integration, wresting attention away from more traditional and shallower forms of cooperation. Trade in services is a part of this development and has come under greater scrutiny, along with the policies that influence services trade.

So what does the report contain? Click here to download the report!

  • Section A of the Report presents an overview of the history of non-tariff measures in the GATT/WTO. This overview discusses how motivations for using NTMs have evolved, complicating this area of trade policy but not changing the core challenge of managing the relationship between public policy and trading opportunities.
  • Section B examines the reasons why governments use NTMs and services measures and the extent to which public policy interventions may also distort international trade. The phenomenon of off-shoring and the cross-effects of services measures on goods trade are also considered. The section analyses choices among alternative policy instruments from a theoretical and empirical perspective. Finally, case studies are presented on the use of NTMs in particular contexts.These include the recent financial crisis, climate change policy and food safety concerns. The case studies consider how far measures adopted may pose a challenge for international trade.
  • Section C of the Report surveys available sources of information on NTMs and services measures and evaluates their relative strengths and weaknesses. It uses this information to establish a number of “stylized facts”, first about NTMs (TBT/SPS measures in particular) and then about services measures.
  • Section D discusses the magnitude and the trade effects of NTMs and services measures in general, before focusing on TBT/SPS measures and domestic regulation in services. It also examines how regulatory harmonization and/or mutual recognition of standards help to reduce the trade-hindering effects of the diversity of TBT and SPS measures and domestic regulation in services.
  • Section E looks at international cooperation on NTMs and services measures. The first part reviews the economic rationale for such cooperation and discusses the efficient design of rules on NTMs in a trade agreement. The second part looks at how cooperation has occurred on TBT/SPS measures and services regulation in the multilateral trading system, and within other international forums and institutions. The third part of the section deals with the legal analysis of the treatment of NTMs in the GATT/WTO dispute system and interpretations of the rules that have emerged in recent international trade disputes. The section concludes with a discussion of outstanding challenges and key policy implications of the Report. Source: World Trade Organisation.
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Ugandan importers to boycott Mombasa

Ugandan importers say they intend avoiding using the Port of Mombasa in Kenya in favour of Tanzania’ Dar es Salaam in future, because of unresolved issues with the Kenyan taxman.

Some 600 containers destined for Uganda are being held at the Kenyan port following the introduction of a cash bond tax. The chairman of the Kampala Traders Association announced last week that the association had resolved to suspend using Mombasa in the interim, reports New Vision (Kampala).

In addition, importers say they will take legal action against the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) which has issued a directive instructing importers to lodge either a cash bond equivalent to the value of the imported goods or a bank guarantee to the same value. This must be deposited before the goods being imported can be cleared.

The directive has affected not only the 600 containers waiting at the port but imports of motor vehicles and sugar.

Uganda’s trade minister, Amelia Kyambadde said she had been informed by the Uganda business community that the KRA, under notice CUS/L&A/LEG/1 had made a unilateral decision on a requirement for a cash bond or bank guarantee on transit sugar and motor vehicles above 2000cc.

Ugandan authorities say the action by the KRA directive constitutes another non-tariff barrier imposed by Kenyan authorities on its transit cargo and contravenes East African Community Customs Union protocol and decisions reached by the Council of Ministers in March 2012 on removal of non-trade barriers in the community.

“If Kenya needs an instrument to regulate regional trade in sugar and other products, a cash bond is not the instrument to apply,” said Kyambadde. Sources: Ports.co.za / New Vision (Uganda).

Thick Borders – Thin Trade

It’s quite amazing the number of reports featured in various african media across the continent pushing the ‘free trade’ agenda. The incumbent governments on the other hand are naturally concerned with dwindling tax collections, while at the same time increasing incidents of graft, collusion, and corruption run rampant at the border. While the following article states the obvious, unfortunately, nowhere will you find or read a practical approach which deals with increased ‘automation’ at borders and the consequential re-distribution of ‘bodies’ to other forms of gainful employment. Its jobs that will be on the line. Few governments wish to taunt their electorates – non-essential jobs are a fact of life and are destined to stay if that is what will earn votes and a further term in power. Moreover, there is no question of removing internal borders with the emphasis on costly ‘One-Stop Border’ facilities. To some extent the international donor community won’t mind this as there’s at least some profit and influence in it for them.

Poverty in Sub- Saharan Africa is a man-made phenomenon driven by internal warped policies and international trade systems. The continent cannot purport to seek to grow while it blocks the movement of goods and services through tariff regimes at the same time Tariff and non-tariff barriers contribute to inefficient delivery systems, epileptic cross-border trading and thriving of illicit/contraband goods.

This ultimately harms the local and regional economy. Delays at ports of delivery, different working hours and systems of control across the continent, unnecessary police roadblocks and poor infrastructure condemn countries to prisons of inter-regional and intra-regional trade poverty.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, removal of internal trade barriers would lead to US$25 billion per year of intra-regional exports in Africa, an increase by 15,4 percent by 2022. Making African border points crossings more trade efficient would increase intra-regional trade by 22 percent come 2020. Trade barriers in East Africa Community alone increase the cost of doing business by 20 percent to 40 percent.

Such barriers include the number of roadblocks within each country, cross- border charges for trucks and weighing of transit vehicles on several points on highways. Kenya is grappling to reduce the number of its roadblocks from 36 to five and Tanzania from 30 to 15. Sub-Saharan Africa records an average port delay of 12 days compared to seven days in Latin America and less than four days in Europe. Africa is lagging behind!

In West Africa, Ghanaian exports to Nigeria are faced with informal payments and delays as the goods transit across the country borders whether there is proper documentation. In the Great Lakes Region, an exporter is faced with 17 agencies at the border between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo each with a separate monetary charge sheet.

A South African retail chain Shoprite reportedly pays up to US$20 000 a week on permits to sell products in Zambia. Each Shoprite truck is accompanied with 1 600 documents in order to get its export loads across a Southern African Development Community border. Tariff and non-tariff barriers simply thicken the wall that traps Africans in economic poverty.

The new African Union chair should push for urgent steps to lower barriers to trade within Africa. Border control agencies need retraining and border country governments need to integrate their processes; long truck queues waiting to cross border points should not be used as an indicator of efficiency.

If it takes a loaded truck one hour to cover 100 kilometres; a four-hour wait at the border increases the distance to destination to another 400 kilometres. Increased distance impacts on the prices of goods at the retail end hence limiting access to products to majority of Africans. Limited access translates to less freedom of choice — similar to a locked up criminal prisoner.

With modern technology, goods should be declared at point of origin and point of receipt. Border points should simply have scanners to verify the content of containers. Protectionism, tariffs and non-tariff barriers within the continent sustains African market orientation towards former colonisers.

African entrepreneurs are subjected to longer travel schedules due to constant police checks and slow border processes. To fight poverty on the continent, African people would benefit from an African Union Summit that resolves to facilitate efficiency in movement of goods and services. Efficient delivery systems on the continent will tackle challenges of food insecurity, poor health care, conflicts and further promote diversified economies arising from competitive healthy trading amongst and between African nations.

Elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade will provide an opportunity for African entrepreneurs to adequately take their rightful places as relevant players in the global trade system. It is imperative that African countries re-orient their strategies to promote productivity by reviewing tariffs that hold back entrepreneurs from accessing the continent’s market. This calls for both a competitive spirit and a sense of integrated tariff and process compromise if the continent is to haul its population from poverty. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)