AU wants members to ratify trade agreement

By Kingsley Okoye and Suzzy Tolofri

The Africa Union (AU) has called on the Comptrollers-General of African Customs to provide the required leadership for the ratification of the World Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTFA) by countries in the region.

Mrs Treasure Naphanga , representative of the AU, made the call at the opening ceremony of the first extraordinary session of the sub- committee of Comptrollers-General of African Customs in Abuja on Tuesday.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) came into force on Feb. 22, 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.

It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.

To this end, Naphanga said it was worrisome that since the emergence of the TFA, only 20 out of the 44 African countries had ratified the agreement.

According to her, in spite of Africa’s robust economic growth as second fastest growing continent in the world, the 2015-2016 global competitive index indicates that Africa was largely behind other regions in establishing basic requirements for competitiveness.

Naphanga said that the programme for boosting inter–African trade that was adopted by the Heads of States of African Union in 2012 positively correlated with the World trade facilitation agreements.

She said that it was important for African nations to ratify the agreement, given the numerous benefits accrued to the region.

She said that the ratification and correct implementation of trade facilitation would serve an important platform to improve revenue collection, improve border security and better utilisation of government resources by border agencies in the region.

“It is important for Africa to ratify this TFA agreement because in implementing it, we see numerous benefits for both traders and consumers.

“The rational for the purpose of implementing the trade facilitation measures is already known, but it is best to remind us that the major reason is to expedite the movement of goods and people and to reduce transport cost across national boundary.“

She said that the expensive nature of doing business in Africa like non access to roads, the un–coordinated nature of some African ports among other challenges, necessitated the call for the ratification.

“ Arguably Africa remains by far where international trade is very expensive along with Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“In addition to absolute lack of infrastructure ranging from inefficient coordination of ports among others, in accessible roads, including a lot of unnecessary red tapism, these factors make doing business more expensive.“

She, however, said that AU had undertaken various studies on the implementation of the WTO trade facilitation agreement.

She said that the commission was putting modalities in place to assist and facilitate the implementation of category A B and C of the agreement to widen African markets.

She said there was the need for African leaders to evolve a more coordinated approach and speak with one voice in the global arena.(NAN)