PUBLISHED ON December 10th, 2014

Uganda progresses on trade barriers

Following an impasse that had dragged on for a year, Uganda and other member states have taken big strides to eliminate bottlenecks to trade by implementing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The TFA, which was agreed upon during the ninth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in 2013, was approved and adopted on November 27, by the WTO general council. The TFA aims to establish trade and increase economic growth through the four principles of simplification, standardisation, harmonisation and transparency of procedures so that it reduces the time and cost of doing trade. TFA is slated to be enforced on July 30, 2015.

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, in his address to the African Union conference of ministers of Trade on December 4, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said African nations stood to benefit from the recent WTO decisions on the Bali agreements, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which would support “your efforts at regional integration in a very practical way.” Azevêdo urged African members to “engage even more” in the WTO.

“We are coming to a defining period in our work when it will be crucial that your voices are heard in full,” he said.

At a meeting organized by the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in conjunction with Trademark East Africa on December 5, in Entebbe, to review the national plan for the implementation of future WTO agreement on trade facilitation, the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) expert, Celine Bacrot, said several TFA measures were already taking place in Uganda.

“Trade is Uganda’s priority since it’s a landlocked country and Uganda is not alone. There is need to reduce all these barriers and it’s crucial to have this partnership and strong commitment to implement the measures of the TFA…,” Bacrot said.

“The key issue is the political will to make sure that all measures are applied and implemented. And for it to succeed, it has to be done with the help of the private sector.”

TFA is critical to the region. Francis Koluo, the principal commercial officer of external trade in the ministry of Trade, said TFA was very critical in easing market access and access to technical capacity and financial assistance.

“The TFA is also envisaged to provide a more realistic and predictable trade environment, especially for the LDCs,” Koluo said.

Moses Sabiiti, the senior programme manager of Trade Mark East Africa (TMA), Uganda, said TMA will continue to support Uganda implement obligations of the WTO trade facilitation agreement.

“Trade facilitation agreement is among the top priorities of Trade Mark East Africa across the region because of the results TMA has so far yielded in the reduction of time and costs, especially along the northern and central corridors of East Africa,” Sabiiti said.

“The projects supported by TMA in Uganda, since 2011, have reached maturity and are so far yielding very good results,” he said.

Projects so far undertaken by TMA include the construction of one-stop border posts that will be handed over in early 2015. They include Busia, Mirama hills and Mutukula one- stop border posts. TMA has also supported Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in the implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) world, where agents, importers and exporters can submit documents online and get clearance.

As a platform, ASYCUDA world has enabled the exchange of advanced information on clearance of goods and the implementation of the single customs territory for the clearance of goods at Mombasa port destined for Uganda. Its implementation has so far reduced the customs clearance time from an average of four days to one day at Busia and Malaba border.

All these and other measures are geared towards the implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement’s principles of simplification, standardization, harmonization and transparency of procedures to reduces time and costs of doing trade.

Source: The Observer

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.