TradeCom paves way for Africa in trade
Being included in the world trading system can be a major boost for African countries’ economies. However, most underdeveloped countries lack the capacity to design trade policies and to participate in international trade negotiations, such as those of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The TradeCom Facility assists projects in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to expand their trade opportunities. It has managed 230 projects with a strong focus on Africa so far.
It provides funding and support, including technical assistance in research, help with drafting legislation, and assistance in ongoing trade negotiations and in tackling technical trade barriers. It aims at strengthening countries’ own trade capacities in a wide range of activities. In Africa, TradeCom covers eastern, western and southern Africa as equally as possible in terms of geography. It funds projects for different beneficiaries: regional and inter-regional organisations, ministries, the private sector, civil society, etc.
The TradeCom Facility is financed by the European Development Fund (EDF) and works mainly in three areas: trade policy, trade negotiations and trade agreements.
Teddy Soobramanien, Trade Expert at TradeCom, says the facility initially concentrated on policies and negotiations, whereas the tendency has recently gone towards activities such as trade development and specific access to markets for certain products.
To start building the capacity of [African] countries to start using the resources they have been developing to formulate projects, monitor projects, implement projects.
After TradeCom’s first six-year mandate, an evaluation took place in 2011 with good results, providing it with an extension mandate with an additional focus on training until June 2010. “The conclusion of the evaluation report was that the TradeCom Facility has made a significant contribution to trade quality and trade development in the developing countries”, Mr Soobramanien states, explaining that the challenge now is “to start building the capacity of [African] countries to start using the resources they have been developing to formulate projects, monitor projects, implement projects […] because clearly there is a lack of capacity”. The challenge so far, according to him, has been the lack of resources and capacity in some areas, and the necessity to properly identify the needs of potential beneficiaries in different regions.
Delivering results through flexible assistance
Pascal Youbi-Lagha has been working with TradeCom for several years in his role as Director of Trade and Competition in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) in Bangui, Central African Republic. TradeCom has assisted CEMAC in different ways: it has provided technical assistance for strengthening human resources for meetings, seminars and trade negotiations and provided assistance in training experts for trade negotiations and the procedures of the European Development Fund. Mr Youbi-Lagha highlights the facility’s involvement and assistance: “TradeCom is responding to our requests in an ever more efficient manner. The different teams are flexible, attentive to our needs and timely in their interventions.”
The programme is well designed and plays a key role in delivering results for ACP countries.
Mr Moses Tekere
Moses Tekere, Chief Technical Advisor at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), confirms the positive role played by the facility. “The programme is well designed and plays a key role in delivering results for ACP countries”, he insists, quoting the facility’s help with Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the COMESA Customs Union and the Trade in Services programme as examples.
More importantly, the TradeCom technical assistance has a positive impact in the long term as it has helped African countries develop the capacity necessary for future trade negotiations with emerging countries. It has also helped African countries to rediscover missing development and infrastructure linkages needed to support African integration and build regional markets. “Africa is now inspired and working towards a continental free trade area partly thanks to the capacity building on trade negotiations from TradeCom”, says Mr Tekere.
Sustaining results through Aid for trade
Improving trade opportunities in developing countries by helping these countries to access markets is a way of boosting the economy and fighting poverty directly. It is in line with the overall objectives of strengthening African capacities to meet rules, standards and quality requirements – essential to giving access to regional and international markets, as set out in the framework of the Joint Africa-EU Partnership on Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructure.
This process can be taken further by building capacity and ensuring that these countries meet the standards of export markets and tackle red tape. These goals are supported by the EU’s joint Aid for Trade strategy, adopted in 2007 to better integrate all developing countries – especially the Least Developed Countries – in the international trading system. It forms part of the Aid for Trade initiative launched at the December 2005 WTO Ministerial Conference. The EU is the world’s largest provider of Aid for Trade, with Africa being the main recipient. TradeCom makes a major contribution to the objectives of this initiative.
The budget for TradeCom for its first six years is € 50 million, covering all ACP countries. This is part of the € 522 million from the 9th EDF, earmarked for regional integration and trade-related assistance.