2020 is coming to an end, albeit unceremoniously partly due to the fact that that for the most part  the world  has been struggling  with  Covid-19 pandemic.

In terms of trade, the ramifications of the pandemic on business have been huge, for the trade policy makers, the multilateral trading system, the global and regional supply chains as well as the global and regional value chains.

In this post, we summarize some of the current trade policy and trade law issues around African that should be of interest to policy makers, businesses and consumers at the national, regional and multilateral levels.

EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY

Non- Tariff Barriers

As a major Regional Economic Community, the EAC has been on the path to deeper integration and of course this journey is always not without challenges. The most recent of these is the Non- Tariffs Barriers. The East African issues of  reports that the Uganda Association of Manufacturers is threating to move to  East African Court of Justice to litigate over measures which have apparently been taken by Kenya in recent times with regard to the Uganda’s products.

Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) are basically trade restrictions which come in the form of conditions, prohibitions or specific market requirements. These barriers tend to make importation or exportation of products difficult and/or costly.

The EAC Common Market Protocol is ideally supposed to guarantee movement of  goods as services across the borders but this is yet to fully achieved due to a myriad of challenges including NTBS.Uganda Association of Manufacturers contend that some of these measures run afoul the EAC Common Market Protocol. In view of the fact the tge EACJ has been handling trade related cases quiet well in recent times, this latest dispute could well be another showdonwn between these key members of the EAC.

REGIONAL INTEGRATION

UK- Kenya FTA

Kenya has been negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the UK whose aim is to ensure these countries still  trade Post -Brexit.  As the talks are nearing conclusion the EAC Council of Ministers are to meet during December to approve Kenya’s intention to separately sign the  trade deal. The EAC Customs Union Protocol empowers the EAC  Council of Ministers to allow negotiations of these nature. However, it should be remembered that under Article XXIV GATT, WTO Members  can, as a matter of right, enter into  negotiations toward establishment of FTAs such as the UK-Kenya. Therefore, these  ‘discussions, at the EAC level should  be interesting to follow.

AfCFTA

The East African Community submitted its  AfCFTA tariff offer as the continental body gears for the formal commencement in January 2021. And while still at AfCFTA, the 13th Extra Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA, on 5 December 2020 adopted  decision on the state of the trading. As to whether  Africa is truly ready for this trade is a story for another day.

Finally at tbe World Trade Organization(WTO) the Deputy Director General  has recently underlined  the role trade can play in Africa to help the continent realize more of its potential and live in peace.