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East African Community: Non-Tariff Barriers & Trade Facilitation

Clinic: uOttawa-Queen's Joint Clinic, Spring 2018

Beneficiary: East African Community Secretariat

Executive Summary

The full report can be read and downloaded here.

Trade facilitation, or the simplification and harmonization of trade processes, has emerged as a vital element in the effort to stimulate global economic development. Simplification and harmonization of trade processes play a key role in the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), reducing the cost of cross-border activities and helping states reap the benefits of international trade. NTBs have a particularly significant impact on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), especially those in developing and least-developed countries (LDCs). The limited resources of these organizations mean they are more vulnerable than larger businesses to the added costs and administrative burdens that arise from NTBs. In recognition of these issues, World Trade Organization (WTO) Members negotiated the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the purpose of which is to “promote the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes.” This Agreement entered into force in February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. In essence, the Agreement aims to cut, in its various forms the “red tape” that hampers the movement of goods across borders and thereby reduce the time and costs associated with the exporting and importing of goods. It is estimated that the implementation of the TFA will reduce trade costs by an average of 14.3% and boost global trade by up to $1 trillion per year, with the biggest gains accruing to the LDCs. The Agreement was also ground-breaking due to the innovative way it permits developing countries and LDCs the freedom to determine the timing for the coming into force of their commitments under the Agreement.

Students, Tristan McLeod and Isabella Mira, presenting their research and findings (above).

It is within the context of these global trade issues and developments that the University of Ottawa and Queen’s Trade Law Practicum Team (the Team) undertook this project to assist the East African Community (EAC), the Team’s beneficiary, in its efforts to eliminate regional NTBs and simultaneously assist states in the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in meeting their obligations under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The Team was keen to ensure that it would deliver an excellent end product capable of providing practical value to the EAC in achieving its goals. We therefore devoted our time at the outset of the project to understanding the cross-border trade issues facing TFTA traders. Once we had satisfied ourselves that we were sufficiently well versed about this aspect of the project, we turned our efforts to determining the form and attributes of a suitable deliverable for the EAC. This report and the accompanying documents comprise that deliverable and represent the culmination of our work.

The project focuses on (the Website), an online reporting tool used by the EAC and its trade partners(1) to identify and address NTBs encountered by traders in the TFTA. After thoroughly reviewing the Website’s content and functionality, consulting with trade facilitation experts at the WTO and elsewhere, and discussing our findings with the EAC Secretariat, the Team identified several ways in which the tool could be improved and devised a three-part project directed at addressing thes