Introduction: 1. In the preparation for the CFTA and for the objective of increasing intra-African Trade, the African Union Commission should address continental challenges in the area of trade facilitation, customs procedures and legislation, in particular origin, valuation, nomenclature, transit and interconnectivity, working in partnership with the RECs to prepare for the start of the negotiations:
i) Define the stages of the FTA and its implementation and prepare a Roadmap for Negotiations;
ii) Assessing what needs to be done at a national level by each AU member for it to be a part of the various stages of the CTFA;
iii) Prepare draft Negotiating Principles, Guidelines; Processes; Institutional Arrangements;
iv) Prepare a Draft Negotiating Text for the CFTA as well as the Annexes
2. A central AUC activity should be the monitoring with the RECs of progress in the implementation of the CFTA Action Plan and Roadmap.
3. Integrity should be treated as a cross-cutting issue of the customs strategy for the CFTA.
- 1. INSTITUTIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES
a) Ensure regular and effective communication between the Tripartite and the wider CFTA process, via the existing AU meetings and other fora. Strengthen link between continental, regional and national level.
b) Do an analysis on the potential implications of the CFTA on AU Member States customs.
c) Organize round tables with donors, private sector and relevant international organizations in connection with above mentioned meetings.
d) Develop a communication strategy on the benefits of a CFTA and trade facilitation.
2. TRADE FACILITATION
Trade facilitation involves reforms – and while there is an overall support and recognition of the benefits, this requires political will to undertake and implement them.
a) Outcomes of the different needs assessments – made by regional and international organisations, such as WCO, WTO, UNCTAD and World Bank, are to an extent complementary. Although they are the ownership of the assessed country, countries should consider sharing the results (except any sensitive or confidential elements) with their neighbours, the RECs and the African Union. Harmonisation and complementarity between different needs assessment processes should be considered.
b) The role of the informal sector should be taken into account.
a) Develop a trade facilitation regulatory framework as well as an adequate capacity building programme.
b) In the elaboration of a Continental strategy on customs and trade facilitation, the AUC should ensure benchmarking and alignment with international standards such as the Revised Kyoto Convention which includes reducing and standardizing customs forms and documentary requirements, establishing risk management systems, creating Authorized Economic Operator schemes, putting in place an integrated border management strategy, harmonizing business hours and also creating a customs committee to share best practices.
c) Contribute to the development of WCO Economic Competitiveness Package (ECP). Foresee an inventory of TF actions by international organizations and RECs.
d) International standards (including WCO RKC and other standards) should be implemented and progress monitored at all levels.
- 3. CUSTOMS TARIFF NOMENCLATURE
a) Using information available, identify which version of the Harmonised System is currently used in each country.
b) Identify at what HS level each national tariff book is kept and prepare a proposal on what method will be used to rationalize the differences and what system will be used to phase down tariffs.
c) AUC should propose an action plan for tariff phase down programme, taking into account agreed tariff phase down at Tripartite level.
d) Assist and support AU Members to migrate to HS2012 and then to HS2017.
e) Promote the utilization of BTI system.
f) Define and agree on coordination structures and mechanisms to adapt national tariffs and ensure elimination of tariff divergences.
4. CUSTOMS VALUATION
a) Support the implementation of the WTO agreement on customs valuation.
b) Raise awareness of mandatory notification to the WTO of national legislation and any modification on valuation.
c) Support removal of pre-shipment and onshore inspections and promote capacity building (i.e. technical training) of customs officials making use of available assistance from international organisations (notably WCO) in cooperation with the RECs
d) Promote the use of existing implementation tools (Blueprints, Guides, Manuals).
e) Strengthen cooperation between individual countries and regional economic communities.
5. RULES OF ORIGIN
a) Start preparation of information required for CFTA negotiations completing the Tripartite data base on current origin criteria of non-tripartite RECs (ECOWAS/ UEMOA/ ECCAS) and including the administrative cooperation on rules of origin in cooperation between AUC and Tripartite.
b) Urge the expert group put in place by the AU Summit on the need to, among others, rethink Rules of Origin so that they promote regional trade and are in line with modern manufacturing practices based on global value chains.
c) In order to facilitate the negotiations on the rules of origin of the CFTA: a secretariat (leader) should be in charge to facilitate the negotiations.
d) A strategy to facilitate the negotiations should be defined at first.
- 6. TRANSIT
a) Consider the use of best practice procedure similar to European common transit or TIR, depending on the level of needs and resources.
b) Consider starting with the use of common transit procedure on a national basis in order to gain experience.
c) The AU technical working group on transit should incorporate a team of legal, IT and project management experts in charge of transit projects.
d) When launching transit projects consult different information sources.
- 7. INTERCONNECTIVITY
a) Interconnectivity should be planned together with enhanced risk analysis (for instance to fight undervaluation) and reduction of physical and documentary controls. Interconnectivity must facilitate trade and enhance the combat against fraud simultaneously.
b) Interconnectivity between customs administrations (at national and international level) should be complemented, where this is not already the case, with interconnectivity with other state agencies such as Tax administrations and with economic operators (to facilitate trade). Exchanging customs data with Tax administrations can help identifying tax fraud thus helping to compensate part of the losses of customs revenue that are originated by free trade agreements.
c) The following steps must be followed when preparing interconnectivity between customs agencies:
1st: Enhancing administrative capacity (the customs administrations must know how to collect relevant information, how to exchange it with other customs administrations and how to use the information that they receive to improve their risk analysis).
2nd: Ensure the compatibility of the information that will be exchanged (i.e. the parties exchange information based on the same HS or the same valuation rules).
3rd: Create the legal framework to make the exchange of information between parties that are interconnected compulsory i.e. signing memorandum of understanding. If the customs officers are not obliged to exchange information there is room for corruption.
4th: Plan carefully the technical aspects of interconnectivity before developing IT systems for exchange of information.
- Summary outcome of the JOINT CUSTOMS AND TRADE FACILITATION FORUM: A CUSTOMS STRATEGY FOR THE CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (CFTA), Organised by the African Union and European Union Commissions with the African Regional Economic Communities Brussels, 11-13 December 2012.