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African Union Customs Experts meet to develop a Trade Facilitation Strategy for Africa

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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The 1st Meeting of the African Union Customs Experts on the Development of a Trade Facilitation Strategy for Africa, commenced today in Libreville. The Meeting is organized in line with the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), and fast tracking the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017 and also taking into account the conclusions of the 9th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013. The main objectives of the Forum is to appraise participants on new developments and endeavours in Trade Facilitation, to share best practices in the scheduling and implementation of Trade Facilitation Measures, to validate Terms of reference for Studies on the Gap Analysis of the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement in Africa and Development of Draft African Union engagement Strategy on the Agreement.

The implementation of both the BIAT Action Plan and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement is expected to bring numerous benefits to the African Continent through improvements in the areas of transparency and fairness, good governance and modernization of the trade supply chain: This is key for poverty alleviation in Africa.

On behalf of Mrs. Treasure Maphanga, Director of Trade and Industry of the African Union, Mr. Aly Ibouroi Moussa, Head of Customs Division thanked the Government and people of the Gabonese Republic for hosting the meeting and for the excellent facilities put at the disposal of the participants. He pointed out the correlation between the BIAT Program and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement which the High Level African Trade Committee made up of Heads of State and Government called for expeditious implementation. He indicated that research shows that by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, the cost of doing business is expected to decrease significantly. “Research points that by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, businesses can expect to see trade costs decrease by between 10 to 15 %, and a boost to the world economy by more than US$1 trillion”, he emphasized. In conclusion, he called upon African WTO Members to ratify the Trade Facilitation Agreement so as to be able to access the assistance facilities provided by the WTO and the Word Customs Organization (WCO) to implement the Agreement.

In his opening remarks, the Director General of Customs of the Republic of Gabon, Mr. Alain Paul Ndjoubi Ossamy, recalled the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and observed that it imposes an innovatory approach to the administration of International Trade. He indicated that Africa has to adjust itself to the new standards to be able develop its economic and social growth. The Director General also pointed out that to implement the Agreement, Africa must harmonize its procedures in order to boost the integration process through the started reforms and involvement of the Private Sector. Before declaring open the meeting, he urged the participants to share best practices that will enable the meeting to establish a favorable framework for the Trade Facilitation in Africa and for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017.

The meeting is attended, among others, by Customs/Trade Facilitation Experts from African Union Member states, Customs Department of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), International organizations dealing with issues of Trade Facilitation such as the World Trade Organization, World Customs Organization, the United Nation Conference of Trade and Development, and The Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (TRAPCA).