TradeBarriers.Org: Facilitating Trade Through Information on Non-Tariff Barriers
On behalf of the joint International Trade and Investment Law Practicum at the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University (“the Joint Clinic”), Simon Gollish, Andrew MacDonald, and Alina Smirnova (“the Team”) are grateful for the opportunity to work on a project for the benefit of the East African Community Secretariat (“the Beneficiary”).
This project continued the work completed by a Queen’s Law team last year. The team focused on suggesting improvements to the tradebarriers.org website (“the Website”) that would make it more informative and resourceful. Three Regional Economic Communities, one of which is the Beneficiary, have implemented a mechanism through the Website that assists in identifying and resolving complaints regarding Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) encountered by traders in Eastern and Southern Africa. The Website facilitates the elimination of NTBs by enabling traders and stakeholders to transparently report NTBs and monitor their resolution.
One of the main components of last year’s project was drafting descriptions for 81 NTB sub-categories under which traders can currently file complaints. Last year's team finished 23 descriptions, and this year, the Team completed the remaining ones, apart from four, which were removed. The final number of defined NTB sub-categories is 77. In addition, last year’s team started a “website index” which includes hyperlinks to government trade-related websites. The Team is continued this work.
This document is the final report of the project with four appendixes comprising the project’s substantive work for the Beneficiary.
We thoroughly enjoyed working with the East African Communities Secretariat (“EAC”) and hope that the project will support its work in facilitating international trade in Africa. We are also grateful for the incredible learning opportunity this project offered to us as students.
This section outlines the elements of the project completed between January and April 2019.
First, we drafted clear and succinct descriptions for the remaining 54 NTB sub-categories. Following last year’s format, each description includes the following: a Definition, Key Features, and Keywords. In addition, we note that 20 out of the 27 countries currently using the Website are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and 13 have ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). This is a landmark agreement containing provisions for expediting the movement and clearance of goods, measures for effective cooperation between customs authorities, and provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in the area of trade facilitation. For this reason, each NTB sub-category description also includes a reference to any applicable articles of the TFA. Because the descriptions are being produced for use on a website, we anticipate that the online Complaint Management System (“CMS”) may be updated or improved in the future. As such, we drafted definitions in a way that will accommodate such future changes to the digital information system. We discuss this further in Sections 2 and 3 of this document. A complete list of the 77 NTB sub-category descriptions are listed in Appendix A. We recommend that the definitions and key features be available to users of the Website. This will benefit traders wishing to register complaints about the various types of NTBs they encounter in their trading activities. This deliverable comprised the bulk of the project for the Team.
Second, the Team continued work on the indexes of trade-related government websites hyperlinks, which we suggest should be added to the Website as a resource. This index has the potential to be useful to traders as an easily-accessible information resource. Because the index is based around applicable TFA articles (e.g. Articles 1-3 address requirements to make export and import information available), it could also be useful to countries who have ratified the TFA, in satisfying their treaty obligations. This part of the project is further discussed in Section 4, entitled “Indexing”. The completed website indexes are included in Appendix B.
The full report along with Appendix A and B can be found here.
* Image Credit: https://www.eac.int/