A Non-Tariff Barrier is any obstacle to international trade that is not an import or export duty. They may take the form of import quotas, subsidies, customs delays, technical barriers, or other systems preventing or impeding trade. Over time, the private sector throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region has identified non-tariff barriers that restrict trade among Member States.
Examples of Restrictions
Quota restrictions are not allowed under SADC’s Protocol on Trade. Ideally, any Member State is free to import or export any amount of goods it chooses from other Member States. While certain quota restrictions persist from before 2000, Member States are committed to reducing these restrictions, under Article 7 of the Protocol on Trade.
Occasionally, certain non-tariff barriers arise for logistical reasons not intended to restrict imports. Many SADC members are land-locked, which forces goods to cross many national borders during transit to destination. Customs delays caused by this situation constitute a non-tariff barrier. In order to ease this situation, SADC has promoted membership in a Customs Union, which unites all Member State customs policies, thereby reducing delays at border crossings.
Sugar Agreement and Accepted Barriers to Trade
Special cases apply to certain goods, namely sugar. Because the sugar industry in certain Member States is uniquely volatile, SADC recognises that Member States would not benefit from the artificially-low market that Free Trade of sugar would create. As a result, the Protocol on Trade contains the Sugar Agreement, which allows sugar-producing Member States duty-free access to members of the Southern Africa Customs Union but does not require similar duty-free access to their markets in return.
This situation offers short-term support to sugar producers as they establish a competitive industry within their borders. The long-term plan for the Sugar Agreement is to remove barriers to trade by 2012.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
Import and export restrictions put in place to preserve the health of humans, animals, and plants – known as sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures – can become a non-tariff barrier when incorrectly applied for the purposes of market protection, rather than health and welfare. The SADC Protocol on Trade sets out specific solutions for sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures that do not obstruct legitimate trade.
In 2005, SADC introduced a process for identifying and eliminating non-tariff barriers. As part of this process, the SADC Secretariat developed a mechanism – in conjunction with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community – to ensure disputes over non-tariff barriers can be addressed online, allowing for timely resolution.
Tradebarriers.org is an online portal for information related to non-tariff barriers in Africa, offering current documentation and notification of trade barriers, and the steps governments are taking to address them. In addition to enhanced transparency, Tradebarriers.org also provides a web-based reporting and monitoring system that enables interested parties to cooperate in identifying barriers to trade in Africa, and to contribute to their elimination, improving a beneficial or positive trade environment for everyone. To find out more, visit tradebarriers.org.
- Protocol on Trade
- Guide to Protocol on Trade