Trade policy is a collection of rules and regulations that pertain to trade. Every nation has some form of trade policy in place, with public officials formulating those trade policies they think would be most appropriate for their country. The purpose of trade policy is to help a nation's international trade run smoothly, by setting clear standards and goals which can be understood by potential trading partners. In many regions, groups of nations work together to create mutually beneficial trade policies, which result in trading agreements amongst those countries.
Trade and therefore trade policy has become a major determinant of economic and regional development and integration depending on how it supports economic activity. Most of the trade in the eastern and southern African region takes place within the framework of regional agreements. It is generally understood that a conducive policy environment is vital for fostering increased trade and economic growth in any country or regional grouping.
TMSA recognises that such a conducive policy environment environment depends upon the institutional capacity of countries and regional groupings to deal with national and regional policy challenges, participation in and benefit from multilateral trading arrangements and exploit opportunities created by globalisation, trade liberalisation and regional economic integration. Consequently, TMSA provides administrative support, technical expertise and financial aid towards improving regional policy formulation, research, analysis and harmonisation as well as strengthening policy implementation capacity.
Specifically, TMSA is supporting regional trade liberalisation through the implementation of preferential trading arrangements such as the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA). The Tripartite Free Trade Area intends to liberalise trade among the 26 Member States of the three Regional Economic Communities, namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC). Part of this support is directed towards making it quicker, cheaper and easier to move goods from one country to another through the simplification and harmonization of border controls and transit procedures as well as improving infrastructure related trade facilitation measures.
In support of the FTA negotiation process, TMSA is assisting the development of a trade database that will improve the availability and dissemination of accurate and up-to-date trade related and other economic data. This will improve the region’s capacity to undertake trade and economic research and analyses thus enhancing the quality of policy analysis, formulation and decisions. TMSA also intends to undertake training of negotiators in order to equip them with negotiation skills and a broad understanding of FTA negotiations.
There is an intrinsic relationship between trade in goods and trade in services. Liberalized services trade would facilitate goods trade and make it more competitive in regional and international markets. Freer trade in services is, therefore, an important aspect of overall trade liberalisation, as it can result in mutually beneficial exchange of information and skills, enhancing productivity and competitiveness by increasing availability, affordability and quality of services. This, in turn, would help to bring goods to market at more competitive rates.
Trade in services will be negotiated during the second phase of the Tripartite Free Trade Area negotiation process, after a period of 36 months. In preparation, TMSA continues to support the Regional Economic Communities to review and reform their services-related trade policies in priority sectors in order to cement a strong interdependence between the services and goods sectors, and to optimise the contribution of services to national and regional economic growth and development and consequently economic integration.
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are those countries, which, according to the United Nations, exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with the lowest Human Development Index ratings (a social indicators of people's ability to lead a long and healthy life, to acquire knowledge and skills, and to have access to the resources needed to afford a decent standard of living). The LDC Group, based in Geneva, collectively advocates for and advances its agenda in international fora, as LDCs do not have the resources or the capacity to do so individually.
TMSA is supporting, first and foremost, the mainstreaming of trade into the development policies and development plans of LDCs. Secondly TMSA is supporting trade policy capacity development within the LDCs through training, research work, the provision of technical expertise and the development of issues papers for discussions in the LDCs Group. This support is aimed at improving the ability of the LDCs Group to effectively negotiate beneficial outcomes for LDCs as a whole in the Doha Round, the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The current focus is on duty-free, quota free market access of LDCs to the markets of developed and some developing countries as agreed at the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Conference of 2008.