Rules of Origin across African Regional Trading Agreements: A Landscape with Measures to Address Challenges at Harmonization

To become operational, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must harmonize Rules of Origin (ROO) across Africa’s Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) along two dimensions: regime-wide rules and product-specific rules. This paper describes and evaluates these ROO across the major multiple-membership PTAs engaged in these harmonization negotiations. These PTAs include: Agadir Agreement, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, the Common Market for East and South Africa, the East Africa Community, the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern African Development Community. To this list we add available regime-wide information on two FTAs not yet operational: the Tripartite FTA and the AfCFTA that have reached preliminary agreement on Regime-Wide (RW) rules while Product-specific Rules (PSR) are still being negotiated. The paper makes three contributions. It provides the first comprehensive description of RW and PSR separately across the main African PTAs. This landscape is built up from the complementary work based on the rules of origin facilitator1 that has categorized the 850 textually distinct PSR across six selected African PTAs. Second, the paper proposes metrics to evaluate differences along three dimensions: (i) wording-based text analysis; (ii) distance measures to measure regulatory overlap; (iii) ordinal index to measure restrictiveness based of RW and PSR. Third, it proposes a dashboard for negotiators incorporating the classifications and measures developed in the text along with other indicators.
Citation

Gourdon J., Dzmitry Kniahin D., de Melo J., Mimouni M. (2021) Rules of Origin across African Regional Trading Agreements: A Landscape with Measures to Address Challenges at Harmonization. Journal of African Trade (forthcoming)