The Vow of the African Continental Free Trade Area: As a way to fill out the World Trade Organization (WTO) instead of an Alternative
By Abdul Rahman Bangura–
NEW AFRICA DAILY NEWS (NADN) Freetown, Sierra Leone- Apparently, in January 1st, 2021 the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) reached into force. The 55-nation coalition is an enterprising work-in-progress that could remake how African countries business with each other, and with the global economy. To give on its commitments, AfCFTA desires to be built up as a supplement to the World Trade Organization (WTO), rather than as an option.
Incline toward so many things in last year, AfCFTA had been hampered by COVID-19. Its blastoff was seen as largely symbolic, put on that much work continues to be done. That said, AfCFTA could be big. The members’ incorporated gross domestic product is , and the World Bank envisaged it may assist 30 million people escape harsh poverty. AfCFTA gets on well beyond taxes to address non-tariffs, competition policy, intellectual property rights and other cutting-edge issues.
Trade treaties are political balancing acts, and AfCFTA is no different. The agreement screams for 90% of tariffs to be eradicated, but only after five to ten years. These are rather long phase-out periods, and the prospect of political back-sliding will undercut business assurance in these pledges. Furthermore, rules of origin which honestly interpret the proportion of information that have to be sourced registered their agreement. Shoving this, can gulp the road enabled get AfCFTA up and running, but the negotiations to come will test the composition of the coalition.
AfCFTA is an intriguing read. There is a provision, for example that allows administrations to protect “an infant industry having strategic importance at the national level.” The text wants to keep potential abuses in check, but the politics of infant industry protectionism will be difficult to manage.
The “general exceptions” also merit awareness. Most of them are basic cost, but two are not. First, members can put export regulations on materials their domestic industries need if prices are below market because of state-led “stabilization” programs. Second, members can stock or distribute food in “short supply” locally or beyond. These exceptions come with limits, but both could be politically controversial.
Thus, there’s the evidence that 22 of the treaty’s 77 pages are about conflict concession. The text tells dispute settlement is “a central element in providing security and predictability to the regional trading system.” But will AfCFTA dispute settlement deliver consistency, or undermine it?
On the one hand, AfCFTA’s dispute settlement process mirrors the WTO’s system, from consultations to a panel and appellate review. On the other hand, AfCFTA does not mention if, or when, its members should have recourse to the WTO. Given that 44 of the 55 members also fit to the WTO, and seven of the 11 non-members have observer importance, the agreement desires to write a clear “forum shopping” provision. Article 3 prevents sequential or simultaneous filings, but it’s not clear whether this is an assertion of restricted jurisdiction. Are members authorized to file at the WTO? Without an obvious discussion shopping provision, equal torsi of case law could be a severe concern. Indeed, this would weaken the predictability of rules-based trade within Africa, and between AfCFTA and the rest of the world.
Handful deliberation of “anti-forum shopping” provisions might also be given. given pact’s annexes make a lot of references to WTO law, as well as to the work done by WTO committees. AfCFTA, like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), could require that cases strictly about WTO law to be heard in Geneva. This would assure density in decisions across regional and multilateral conflict concession.
For New Africa Daily News Abdul Rahman Bangura Reports, Africa Correspondent