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tralac Newsletter • Issue 15 • December 2019
Welcome to tralac’s final newsletter for 2019
The past year has been a significant one for trade-related matters. The very current news of a ‘phase one’ trade deal between the United States and China, and the definitive victory for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom to ‘get Brexit done’ have lifted the spirits of the markets across much of the global economy. Of course, much work remains to be done on both, so 2020 can still be expected to bring interesting trade developments.

The crisis in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) continues. Since 10 December the Appellate Body has only one member – making its function impossible. It remains to be seen how this will play out. Meanwhile the African Union has applied for Observer Status in the WTO (see related Blog). Africa’s WTO members recently met to reconfirm their commitment to multilateral trade governance. Specifically, they expressed their desire for the completion of the Doha Development Round. Sadly, this is highly unlikely. It is a great pity that Africa’s WTO members are not, for the most part, participating in the plurilateral initiatives (also referred to as joint sector initiatives) covering areas such as Womens’ Economic Empowerment, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development and e-commerce. A future WTO seems sure to feature such plurilterals rather than the multilateral agreements that were possible towards the end of the 1980s/early 1990s. The world has moved on. The crisis of multilateralism extends well beyond trade; including the climate crisis, migration and financial governance too.

On the continent, 30 May signalled the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The sub-text of course, is that negotiations on key elements of the free trade area are still under negotiation. Despite entry into force of the Agreement, no trade under the AfCFTA is yet possible. Negotiators are working seriously on the rules of origin and tariff concessions for trade in goods and preparations for specific commitments for the five priority services sectors (financial, communications, transport, tourism and business services). These are key for trade in goods and services under the AfCFTA to begin. Implementation of the AfCFTA has to become a priority for the State Parties – signature and ratification will mean very little unless the States Parties conscientiously implement every obligation under the Agreement. See our Blog here.

The AfCFTA will have its own institutions – in a Blog we look closely at the institutional architecture of the AfCFTA and the interconnections to the institutions of the African Union. The Assembly of the African Union is the highest decision-making organ of the AfCFTA. This is a clear reminder that the AfCFTA has two lives. It is a free trade area, but also a flagship project of the African Union, alongside many other flagship projects such as BIAT (Boosting Intra-Africa Trade), AIDA (Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa) and others. The Secretariat will be hosted in Accra, Ghana – the Secretary General will be announced on 8 February at the African Union Summit.

Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) are acknowledged as generally more pernicious than tariff barriers – in a Blog we look at the continental NTB notification mechanism. Although there is still work to be done to address NTBs systemically, it is clear that many lessons have bene learned from regional notification mechanisms such as

During 2019, very important collateral AfCFTA support initiatives were also started. Here Africa’s largest trade bank – Afreximbank – is taking a lead not only in its traditional areas of business. In addition to the Pan African Payments and Settlements System (PAPSS), an Adjustment Facility to assist especially least developed countries to manage the adjustment processes following liberalisation, and support to develop Africa’s quality infrastructure (in collaboration a development partner) have been announced. These trade-supporting initiatives are essential to make the AfCFTA work for Africa’s development. They can also contribute to boosting Africa’s capacity to produce tradeables competitively – arguably a much greater challenge than improving market access.

Our updated FAQ on the AfCFTA reflects on some of the basic features of the Agreement and provides an update on recent developments.
We would like to thank you very much for your support and collaboration during 2019, and we look forward to engaging again in 2020.
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful holiday season.
Trudi and the tralac team

Please note that tralacs offices will close on Friday, 20 December 2019 and reopen on Monday, 6 January 2020.

Industrial Policy Workshop, 20-21 January (Cape Town)

tralac will host a discussion on ‘Reimagining Industrial Policy for Africa.’ Our aim is to promote thinking about industrial policy as economy-wide, rather than focusing narrowly on sectors such as clothing and textiles and the automotive sector. Specifically we aim to promote consideration of agriculture as an industry, and the role of services to enhance economy-wide competitiveness.

This is a very small workshop. If you are interested in participating, please contact
Regional Roundtable, 11 February (Cape Town)

Every year tralac hosts a roundtable (Chatham House rules) to discuss prospective trade-related developments and to reflect on the state of South Africa’s economic, trade and investment policy and performance.

This Workshop is by invitation only, bringing together the diplomatic community which comes to Cape Town for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the Mining Indaba during this week. This year we are also inviting private sector participants.
tralac Annual Conference, 26-27 March (Accra, Ghana)

tralac’s 2020 Annual Conference will take place in Accra, the city that is hosting the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Although a date for the launch of the Secretariat is not yet decided, the Secretary General of the Secretariat is to be appointed on 8 February at the Summit of the African Union.

For further details, please contact us on

tralac Alumni Workshop 2019

tralac hosted its 2019 Alumni Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya on 5 and 6 December. The participants were alumni of tralac’s training programmes. The workshop covered a range of topics including the AfCFTA, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), women, youth and trade. Alumni were presenters and also chaired the Workshop sessions. Read more in the Workshop Report.

Amb. (Dr.) Amina Mohammed, Kenya Minister for Sports, Culture and Heritage, was the Guest Speaker at the Alumni Workshop Dinner. Her speech focused on embedding trade and gender in Africa’s trade agenda. She stressed that ‘trade policies and practice tend to have different outcomes for men and women, particularly in the African economies, because of the differences in the traditionally qualified roles, responsibilities, rights and opportunities that our societies assign to men and women’. Download her full speech.

AfCFTA Analysis and Guides

Trade Data Analysis

tralac has prepared intra-Africa trade and tariff profiles for 32 African countries.

AfCFTA: a tralac guide, 6th edition | November 2019

A handy guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area and intra-African trade.

Frequently Asked Questions about the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) 

Updated December 2019

Status of AfCFTA Agreement ratification 

Find out more about the current status of ratification in our infographic

Recent Publications
Enhancing benefits of market and financial integration in SACU: some policy options
Paul Kalenga - 13 Dec 2019
US announces a review of South Africa's place in its biggest preferential trade scheme (GSP)

The United States has announced a review of South Africa's eligibility to participate in its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the largest and oldest American scheme to allow duty-free imports from less developed countries. The South African review is based on intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement concerns, and is rooted in South Africa's domestically controversial draft updates to copyright legislation, most notably the Performers Protection Amendment Bill and the Copyright Amendment Bill. 

The GSP Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) will convene a hearing on the GSP country practice reviews on January 30, 2020 [see Federal Register notice here].

AGOA Guides and Infographics
tralac has produced a number of info-graphic type brochures (see section on / Exporter Toolkit) covering a range of AGOA-related topics, including on AGOA’s legal provisions with regard to eligibility and annual/out of cycle reviews, rules of origin, AGOA FAQs, sector-focused brochures (textiles and clothing, agriculture), as well as national AGOA brochures relating to Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania.
Key AGOA stats to end-October 2019
Aggregate exports to US: 2019 YTD to October: $17.49 billion (-16.5% yoy)

(Share) of AGOA exports: 2019 YTD to October: $7.44 billion (43% of total exports)

Latest AGOA News
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