2021 Trade Remedies Panel Discussion featuring opinions from Vassilis Akriditis, Gerhard Erasmus, Thuto Mathetsa, Creck Buyonge, Michael-James Currie, Alice Twizeye and Peter O Brien
On 20 October 2021, Primerio International hosted an expert panel discussion covering the following topics:
- The impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (‘AfCFTA’);
- Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duties;
- Trade remedies with a view on how international trade administrations and firms are able to better understand the circumstances in which trade remedies might be applied against them; and
- Assessing the risks and opportunities in which a trade remedies framework implies.
The panel included various speakers from Primerio International, the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (‘TRALAC’), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (‘COMESA’), the Southern African Customs Union (‘SACU’), as well as Crowell Moring.
Vassilis Akriditis (Partner at Crowell Moring) provides insight on what trade remedies are and measures imposed on trade by the WTO. He describes the three principal components of trade remedies, namely: (1) anti-dumping; (2) subsidies and countervailing measures; and (3) safeguards, which are designed to keep trade ‘fair’. He describes how aggravated parties may raise their matters regarding trade remedies to the WTO and/or any relevant regional economic communities. The risks associated with disputes are also discussed namely how complicated legal, financial and other related investigations may become necessary to resolve disputes. He provides further commentary on how regulators and governments should, in pursuing trade remedy measures, maintain a focus on societal welfare to ensure fairness as well as the need for specialised training in tribunals and courts on the implications of such measures.
Gerhard Erasmus (Associate at TRALAC) gives an overview of the AfCFTA and its impact on current economic communities in Africa. The AfCFTA is a long-term vision established under the institutional umbrella of the African Union and aims to create a free trade linkage among 54 African countries and their regional economic communities. While there has not yet been any actual trade conducted under the auspices of the AfCFTA, it is suggested that it will become very prevalent in the near future after its hopeful finalisation in late 2021. He also describes how the AfCFTA will exist alongside the free trade areas and customs areas already in place.
Thuto Mathetsa (Tariff Board Coordinator and Risk Manager of SACU) provides insight into SACU’s Tariff Board, which is not yet operational. Currently, the responsibilities of the Tariff Board are being performed by the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC). Thuto describes how allegations of injury regarding anti-dumping and safeguards and applications for investigations are to be submitted to the ITAC by member states in order to initiate investigation. Thuto also provides commentary on consumer welfare’s relation to trade remedies.
Alice Twizeye (Senor Trade Officer of COMESA) provides viewers with insight into free trade within the COMESA trade area. She describes potential challenges in the safeguard frameworks noting that Egypt is the only African country which has fully implemented such a framework.
Peter O’Brien (an expert economist from Primerio International) comments on his experience of trade in Africa, with regard to aspects of how African economies operate. He describes the informal/illicit trade that is prevalent in Africa. He notes how African countries have made very little use of trade remedies. He further notes that there are certain sectors which seem to be growing rapidly, particularly in technologically advanced African countries. Furthermore, he describes that caution is important when countries try to open up to trade and recognises the need for rules, trade remedies and dispute resolution mechanisms. He reminds viewers of the core point of trade remedies: to enable end users to get what they need at lower prices. As such, there are important linkages to draw between trade policies, competition/antitrust law and investment as a whole. Peter also touches on a so-called ‘Global Market Morphology’ determined by five forces, namely: (1) International Trade; (2) International Investment; (3) National Security; (4) Human Rights Considerations; and (5) The Environment and Climate Change.
Creck Buyonge (International Trade Policy Expert from CIT Associates) provides insights on the realities of customs valuations in most African countries and how they may be used for other motives. In particular, they may be seen as a way of collecting revenue rather than for the regulation of trade. As a result, disputes arise. He emphasises the need for training and capacity building, particularly in courts as there are a rising number of cases of people using both national and regional courts to resolve disputes.
Michael-James Currie (Director of Primerio International) provides viewers with insight on the risk of increasing protectionism exhibited by South African government officials having an effect on South African competition law through trade agreements and protocols. He notes how South African localisation policy may have an influence in shaping policy in other African jurisdictions. The risks associated with protectionist policies such as the localisation policy being emphasised in South Africa are clear – the implementation of a strict localisation policy in South Africa and elsewhere would be a concern for free trade and possibly undermine the aims of the AfCFTA. Furthermore, without the implementation of checks and balances within government, these regimes may be easily abused by local departments and Ministers. Mike emphasises the need for debates and discussions on how competition policy is to be applied and adopted in the context of free trade.
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