Non-tariff barriers: monitoring, reporting and eliminating mechanisms

As part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), UNCTAD worked with the African Union to develop and implement the continent’s Non-Tariff Barriers Reporting, Monitoring and Eliminating Mechanism.

Since 13 January 2020, anyone can report an NTB to intra-African trade through the online platform at tradebarriers.africa. The simple and user-friendly website allows traders to report NTBs they encounter when trading within Africa. Governments have committed themselves through the AfCFTA Agreement to respond and eliminate the barriers.

The NTB online mechanism has the following core features:

  • It is open to the private sector. Any company, including MSMEs, can register and report an NTB that it faces in day-to-day operations.
  • National Focal Points receive NTB complaints in real-time and are mandated by the NTB Annex to resolve NTBs within given deadlines. The communication and exchange of documents is facilitated through the online tool.
  • The tool has an automatic translation feature for many languages.
  • An offline SMS text messaging feature is available and integrated with the online platform. Where internet connectivity is scare in small border communities, this feature allows them to benefit from the mechanism.

Developed for Africa, a model for other regional trade agreements

  • While developed for the AfCFTA, the NTB online mechanism be implemented in other regions and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
  • UNCTAD can establish regional NTB online portals for other regions, train national focal points and support awareness raising among the private sector. UNCTAD can also support negotiations for a formal legal framework (such as amendments or additional protocols to FTAs). This would include model legislation and support for the negotiation process.
  • A legal framework is important to ensure full commitment and accountability. The AfCFTA serves as a good example: While there is goodwill of governments, the AfCFTA mechanism is also built on strong legal foundations. Annex 5 of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods establishes institutions and mandatory procedures to ensure NTB complaints are dealt with adequately and in good time.