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Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements and Technical Barriers to Trade: An African Perspective

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Author Info

  • Nico Meyer
  • Tamas Fenyes
  • Martin Breitenbach
  • Ernst Idsardi

Abstract

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) present opportunities for controlling technical barriers to trade (TBTs). Using key principles and provisions of the WTO Agreement on TBT as a yardstick for analysis, this paper examines whether and how eight major regional integration agreements within the African region address TBT issues. It finds that TBT are not an important issue in Sub-Saharan African RTAs. Only one of the 8 agreements surveyed refers explicitly to the WTO TBT Agreement. Existing provisions for eliminating TBT-related barriers or harmonising legitimate technical regulations are formulated mostly in broad and nonprescriptive terms. The paper describes concrete steps that parties to these RTAs have taken in order to reduce technical barriers. Such initiatives have been taken at the national level but can also involve collaboration between RTAs. Country case studies show that weak TBT infrastructure remains a handicap for businesses and governments and that, with the exception of the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC), investment by regional economic communities (RECs) in institutional infrastructure related to TBT has not been significant. The paper describes in some detail relevant activities taking place within SADC which could serve as a best-practice model for other African regional agreements. Serious capacity constraints stand in the way of African countries taking on the challenge of reducing TBT barriers. Also, low local levels of living standards favour weak product standard, and this acts as a barrier to upgrading product standards for export markets. Amending TBT coverage in African RTAs, a review of performance of enquiry points and assistance with infrastructure modernisation are among a set of measures recommended for achieving better TBT policy alignment among countries of the region.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5kmdbgfrgnbv-en
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Trade Policy Papers with number 96.

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Date of creation: 02 Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:oec:traaab:96-en

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Related research

Keywords: trade barriers; standards; South Africa; RTA; Kenya; Nigeria; technical barriers to trade; technical regulations; Sub-Sahara Africa; technical barriers; FTA; Economic Community of West African States; East African Community; South African-EU Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement; regional economic community; WTO Agreement on TBT; mutual recognition; West African Economic and Monetary Union; regional trade agreements; TBT; conformity assessment procedures; harmonisation; free trade agreement; Central African Economic and Monetary Union; Southern African Development Community;

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Cited by:
  1. Diagne, Mandiaye & Abele, Steffen & Diagne, Aliou & Seck, Papa Abdoulaye, 2012. "Agricultural trade for food security in Africa: A Ricardian model approach," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 123842, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

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