World Trade Organisation

The World Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) came into force in February 2017 after the mandatory two thirds of the WTO members ratified and notified its acceptance. The objective of the TFA is to lower trade barriers around the world, and thus facilitate increased global trade. The TFA covers a scope of key trade and customs areas under 14 articles. The successful implementation of the TFA is set to benefit the private sector through reduction of transaction costs by cutting red tape, improving transparency, simplifying and streamlining customs procedures for export, import and transit businesses.

While Kenya and Rwanda were among the first WTO members to ratify the TFA which enabled it come into force, the other 4 EAC Partner States have not ratified. All EAC Partner States have however notified their Category “A” measures to the WTO. Under WTO TFA, the Category “A” Measures or Commitments stands for provisions or measures that a developing country or LDC would self-designate for implementation after entry into force of the Agreement. These are trade facilitating measures that a Member already implements, or have the capacity to implement. Category B Commitments are provisions that a developing country or LDC designated for implementation on a date after transitional period of time following the entry into force of the Agreement. Category C Commitments are those provisions that a developing country or LDC designated for implementation on a date after a transitional period and the acquisition of the implementation capacity through provisions of technical assistance as well as support for capacity building.

Though there have been efforts to persuade EAC Partner States to converge as much as possible with regards to Notification on Category Measures, the EAC Partner States were in convergence on only four measures. These measures are: Article 1.4 Notification; Article 5.2 Detention; Article 9 Movement of goods under customs control and Article 10.5.1 on Pre-shipment inspection. Otherwise, each EAC Partner State notified differently with Rwanda for instance notifying 18 measures while Kenya and Tanzania became very cautious by notifying only six measures.

In reviewing the TFA and assessment of EAC Partner States implementation of Customs Union, Common Market and more importantly operationalization of Single Customs Territory which started on 1st January 2014, EABC is convinced that at least the EAC Partner States can uniformly implement 8 measures under the TFA. These measures are trade facilitating measures that EAC Partner States have capacity to implement or are already implementing under the EAC Customs Union protocol or as signatories of theKyoto Convention on Customs (International Convention on Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures) or as members of the World Customs Organization (WCO).The eight (8) measures are: Article 1 on Publication and Availability of Information; Article 2: opportunities to Comment, Information before entry in force and Consultation; Article 3: Advance Rulings; Article 4: Appeal or Review Procedures: Article 6: Discipline on Fees and Charges Imposed on or in Connection with Importation and Exportation; Article 7: Release and Clearance of Goods; Article 8: Border Agency Cooperation and Article 10:Formalities connected with importation, exportation and transit.

EABC therefore recommends the following:
1. All EAC Partner States should expeditiously ratify the WTO TFA as they are the main beneficiaries of the Agreement;
2. EAC Partner States should amend their EAC trade and customs legal instruments including East African Customs Management Act to align them with the WTO TFA;
3. The purpose of fees and charges in EAC should be reviewed to ensure it complies with the provisions of the WTO TFA;
4. TFA implementation should be coordinated and monitored at the regional level in order to enhance collaboration under EAC, share and initiate practical measures including administrative or standard practices for implementing the WTO TFA;
5. EAC Partner States should implement WTO TFA measures beyond what was notified by EAC Partner States;
6. The implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) should not be restricted to its provisions only but extended to international best practices.