Cameroon: NOTI Operational Working Group Prescribes Implementation of AfCFTA Rules of Origin
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Members of the Operational Working Group (OWG) established as part of the Nkafu Open Trade Initiative (NOTI) have come up with wide-ranging recommendations on the AfCFTA aimed at boosting free trade between Cameroon and Nigeria.
The third session of OWG which is being implemented by the Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia foundation this January 21 at the Muna Foundation in Cameroon’s political capital, Yaounde, was held under the theme: “Simplifying rules of origin to boost free trade between Cameroon and Nigeria.”
Discussions during the session were centred on understanding what mechanisms are in place to implement and verify rules of origin between Cameroon and Nigeria; identifying strategies to support and to promote the “Made in Cameroon” brand; outlining the challenges that may arise from the implementation of the continental free trade area (AfCFTA) concerning products of origin regulations and examining how “rules of origin” can improve industrialization in both countries.
Free trade between Cameroon and Nigeria would boost local production in both countries and create opportunities that will promote industrialization and development of the national value chains (Nigeria has more than 200 million consumers).
Free trade thus can be effective if the two countries respect the rules of origin, according to a concept note from the Nkafu Policy Institute. These rules which determine the country of origin of a product are therefore essential for selecting products eligible for preferential treatment in the bilateral trade undertaken by both countries. They are also essential in promoting the national know-how of each country.
Cameroon and Nigeria belong to separate regional economic zones (RECs). The findings from the working session illustrated that it is necessary to begin implementing the rules of origin that are currently prescribed by the AfCFTA. This will ensure that Origin rules are standardized in both countries and support traders in both countries.
“The rules of origin application should be digitized as the forms are currently available on the AfCFTA website,” members of the Operational Working Group said. “In so doing, traders will understand exactly what information is required to better illustrate the origins of products or services. This will equally facilitate the implementation of the AfCFTA and ensure that the terms of trade in both countries benefit over the long run.”
The Operational Working Group members added that: “the findings equally stressed the need to properly measure how to account for the labour and manufacturing processes. A great portion of Cameron and Nigeria’s trade flows are in agro-processed foods ranging from beverages to household equipment.”
“Consequently, Cameroon and Nigeria should agree on whether to use changes in tariff lines or “the content of domestic raw materials” to determine the contribution of each country.”
It is therefore paramount that the “rules of origin” are properly established, to ensure diversification of products and industrialization.