ITC Impact: Côte d’Ivoire

3 February 2015
ITC News
ITC helps develop Trade Obstacles Alert mechanism to tackle non-tariff measures

Assahouré N’Goran used to wait six months to get the weight certificate required to export cocoa beans to Belgium. Since June, his waiting time has dropped to just two weeks.

‘Having the certificates issued quickly makes a huge difference for us,’ said N’Goran, Shipping Manager of Outspan Ivoire, a local subsidiary of agribusiness giant Olam International. ‘It increases our competitiveness and will lead to higher exports. What is good for our company is good for employment and the growth of Côte d’Ivoire.’

Most such non-tariff measures (NTMs) are very simple to solve once they are identified, said Kouakou Germain Yao, Director of Studies and Economic Information at Côte d’Ivoire’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ‘All it takes is to bring in the private sector, so that the problems can be identified,’ he said.

N’Goran reported the issue through the country’s Trade Obstacles Alert service, an online tool put in place by ITC in 2014 following the completion of the country’s first ever non-tariff measures survey. In the survey, nearly three-quarters of the 600 companies said they faced non-tariff barriers to trade, significantly higher than the 55% average in the over 25 countries surveyed by ITC.

The companies saw NTMs as barriers particularly in regional markets. One of the biggest challenges identified was the delivery of certificates of origin for export to neighbouring countries. Most procedures are lengthy and susceptible to malpractice, the survey found. Lack of knowledge about the procedures and the agencies in charge of them pose additional challenges for exporting companies, who also complained about a lack of transparency in regulations.

In response to these findings, the government requested ITC to set up the alert service, so officials can learn firsthand about the hurdles faced by the business community and address the concerns.

‘This tool is instrumental in helping policymakers to develop programmes and reforms suitable to increase the competitiveness of Ivoirian exporters,’ said Gomun Kouya, Director of Export Promotion and Assistance at the Ministry of Trade.

Twenty-four obstacles have been reported since the launch of the service in the summer of 2014, ranging from lack of storage facilities and border points to incorrect customs valuations on exported products. Five have been resolved, including the one reported by N’Goran.

Previously only the president of the Chamber of Commerce was authorized to sign weight certificates, which are required for all exports of cocoa beans, the country’s largest export item.

Depending on his availability, the certificates can often take a long time to arrive. Following the identification of the problem through the new platform, another official was also given the authority to issue the certificates.

The remaining 19 obstacles identified are being addressed by various government agencies and trade support institutions, Yao said. Following the launch of the tool, the government passed a decree mandating its agencies to use the platform and address the reported problems.

‘This mechanism will allow us to facilitate our trade by signaling the difficulties we encounter and from which we suffer,’ said Daihi Fatoumata, sales manager of the Société de Culture Bananière (SCB), a large exporter of bananas and pineapples.

The Trade Obstacles Alert system was put in place in Côte d’Ivoire as part of ITC’s Trade Support and Regional Integration Programme (PACIR), financed by the European Union.

ITC Non-Tariff meseaure surveys

Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are of particular concern to exporters as they can prevent access even when tariffs are low or non-existent. Exporting companies seeking access to foreign markets and companies importing products need to comply with a wide range of requirements, including technical regulations, product standards and customs procedures.

The business sector, particularly in developing countries, often lacks the information, capabilities and facilities needed to address these measures. Meeting the complex requirements and demonstrating compliance with NTMs can also come at a considerable cost, particularly for small businesses.

Similarly, national policymakers often lack a clear understanding of what their business sector perceives as predominant obstacles to trade, which can make it difficult to develop appropriate trade-related policies.

ITC’s transparency-oriented programme on NTMs aims to help countries better understand the obstacles to trade faced by the business community, and develop solutions to address them. Since 2009, ITC has set up and led national surveys on NTMs in over 25 developing countries. Over 13,000 companies have been interviewed.

The results suggest that the effects of NTMs weigh especially heavily on exporters and importers in least developed countries: 69% reported facing NTM-related challenges, compared to an overall average of 53% .