Trade facilitation: Ghana ratifies WTO agreement ahead of Nigeria

Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama.
Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama.

Ghana has again moved ahead of Nigeria to ratify its World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement becoming the 104th WTO member to do so.

In August 2016, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, disclosed that the Federal Executive Council (FEC), had approved Nigeria’s ratification of an agreement by the WTO, but the country is noticeably missing on the list of nations that have ratified the agreement.

The ratification seeks to ease the cost of trade, especially for developing countries like Nigeria, which stand to benefit a lot from the agreement.

Ghana’s ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) came on January 4, 2017, making it the first country to ratify the global trade agreement in the new year, with Canada, Kyrgyz Republic and Gabon ratifying in December 2016. With the ratification by Ghana, the agreement needs six more countries ratification to come into effect.

Sadly, Nigeria showed Ghana the way to the WTO trade facilitation processes when she started her single window project for trade and the pre-arrival assessment report (PAAR) of the Nigeria Customs Service.

Taking a leave from Nigeria, Ghana started its single window project, employing same company working for Nigeria, West Blue Consulting and starting up her now very robust Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System in 2015.

Hinting of Nigeria’s readiness for the ratification, Enelamah had said, “Everybody benefits from lowering the cost of doing trade. It’s particularly beneficial for developing countries that want to access international market and that agreement seeks to lower this cost and Nigeria was one of the countries that approved the agreement then, and we have been going through a process to ratify the agreement. The idea is that the agreement comes into effect when it’s ratified by two-thirds of all the countries that approved it originally and we think that will happen sometimes this year (2016).”

But moving ahead of Nigeria, Ghana’s instrument of acceptance was submitted to the WTO on January 4, 2017. The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement.

Announcing the international trade feat, Ghana Revenue Authority, Customs Division thanked stakeholders for not only giving the authority the opportunity to provide them with Ghana’s Trading Hub and the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System but also for their support and steadfastness.

In addition to Ghana, other African countries that have ratified the trade facilitation agreement are Mauritius, Niger, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia, Mali, Madagascar and Gabon.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

According to a 2015 study carried out by WTO economists, full implementation of the TFA would reduce members’ trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing countries having the most to gain. The TFA also has the ability to reduce the time to import goods by over a day and a half while also reducing time to export by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47 per cent and 91 per cent respectively over the current average. The TFA also has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion.

The TFA broke new ground for developing countries and LDCs in the way it will be implemented. For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the Agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so. In addition, the Agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was also created at the request of developing and least-developed country members to help ensure that they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members.