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Trade Barriers are Inimical to Economic Transformation and Regional Integration


Africa’s political leaders have taken bold steps to strengthen and promote production and competitiveness that would normally accelerate the momentum for regional integration.

But this has not been the case, according to the new edition of “Assessing Regional Integration in Africa” jointly published by the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union.

The publication themed “Harmonizing Policies to Transform the Trading Environment,” stressed on the need to remove trade barriers and harmonize policies to promote regional integration.

In this regard, the sixth edition of ARIA published in 2012 recommends seven guiding principles that African states can employ to navigate the complexities surrounding harmonization of rules of origin and trade facilitation instruments for the Continental Free Trade Area. It underscores that these steps are needed to boost regional trade, lessen Africa’s heavy external dependence and enhance the continent’s resilience to global shocks.

ARIA VI reiterated the January 2012 Decision and Declaration of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government on boosting intra-African trade and fast-tracking the establishment of a Continental Free trade Area by 2017.

The authors note that while countries have achieved some milestones on the path towards integration, such as the formation of the Tripartite Framework among the members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community, “the road to completely dismantling barriers to trade is strewn with obstacles and requires a thorough understanding of regional integration and trade policies.”

“Harmonized rules of origin and trade facilitation environment across the continent would greatly improve the means and cost of doing business across borders,” according to the Foreword  of the publication jointly signed by the heads of ECA, AUC and AfDB - Mr. Carlos Lopes, Mrs. Nkosazana Dlaimin-Zuma and Mr. Donald Kaberuka.

Since 2004, the three institutions have co-produced one in-depth regional integration assessment and four subsequent editions focusing on emerging key themes. These include, the rationalization of regional economic communities and their overlapping memberships; macroeconomic policy convergence and monetary and financial integration in the regional economic communities. In the last two editions, efforts were made to strengthen the case for enhancing intra-African trade as well as evidence-based research to support the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area.

ARIA VI was in Johannesburg during the ongoing 2013 African Economic Conference which has Regional Integration as central theme. The conference is jointly organized by the African Development Bank, Economic Commission for Africa and United Nations Development Programme.
Note to Editors:

Rules of origin are used to determine the country of origin, i.e. economic nationality of a product of purposes of international trade. Establishing the country of origin of a product is a fundamental requirement in trade policy formulation and in integral part of preferential trade agreements including Free Trade Areas. Countries can apply their trade Policy measures (e.g. duty free privileges, quotas, tariffs and antidumping duties on products from certain countries) effectively only if they can determine the origin of goods being imported. There are two common types of rules of origin – preferential and non-preferential.

The Report will be made available soon.


The African Economic Conference Website

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