Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Desiderio Consultants Ltd. is a think tank and a network of independent professional international development consultants established to promote and influence customs & trade-related policies in African nations to achieve trade facilitation reforms aimed at improving international and regional trade
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Joint WCO-OTIF-OSJD statement on responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on cross-border railway transport

The heads of the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) and the Organisation for Co-operation between Railways (OSJD) on 15 May 2020 issued a joint statement highlighting the need to facilitate railway transport and railway supply chains in order to mitigate the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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From TFAF a comprehensive COVID-19 Trade Facilitation Repository

During the COVID-19 crisis, trade facilitation has emerged as a key factor for promoting international trade efficiency and ensuring the unobstructed flow of goods in a period where restrictions on the movement of persons and goods have escalated for health-protection and disease prevention reasons. Mechanisms adopted to maintain the flow of safe cross border trade are being used as key policy tools by all the nations worldwide to address the challenges brought by the current global pandemic. The World Trade Organisation in 2014 created the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) at the request of developing countries (DCs) and least-developed countries (LDCs), to facilitate the receipt of assistance they need to effectively implement and reap the full benefits of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, approved by WTO members at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership. Operational since 27 November 2014, the TFAF has supported so far many DCs and LDCs to assess their specific needs and to identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs.

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Predictive analytics and Customs: the DATE model

As part of the BACUDA (Band of Customs Data Analysts) project, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) has developed a neural network model called “Dual-Attentive-Tree-aware-Embedded" (DATE) to assist Customs administrations in better detecting fraud-risky transactions. 

The WCO BACUDA project was launched in September 2019 as a collaborative research platform focused on data analytics. Nigeria Customs are implementing a pilot test to verify its performance at the Tin Can (in Lagos) and Onne (in Port-Harcourt) seaports. The model uses an Artificial Intelligence (AI) module called “ATTENTION” that can detect potential fraudulent transactions more accurately than the other traditional machine learning models, and using less data (such as XGBoost/eXtreme Gradient Boosting, a machine learning model used by many organisations, like insurances, for identifying fraudulent claims by aggregating and analysing historical data on their clients).

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Lack of local manufacturing capacity in Africa in life-saving medical equipment during emergency situations, a proposal to revise the AfCFTA Agreement

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) released on 14 May 2020 a Policy Brief which provides a preliminary analysis, from an African perspective, of the limits of international trade law in times of crisis, and offers policy recommendations for African policy makers to consider. Following a brief analysis of the law of international trade as it applies to the movement of Covid-19-essential goods, the brief concludes that, in times of real emergency such as now, the role of law in assuring access to essential medical supplies on the international market is highly diminished. An example is the export ban of protective equipment and life-saving medical supplies (such as face masks and respirators) recently adopted by Germany also towards the other EU countries, a measure that clearly contradicts the principle of free movement of goods within the EU, one of the main pillars of the EU single market, as highlighted in Article 3(3)(g) and Article 4 of the EC Treaty.

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SADC set to launch the electronic Certificate of Origin (eCoO)

The SADC Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration, at its 16th meeting held in in Gaborone on 13 March 2016, approved the SADC Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), also known as “Comprehensive Trade Facilitation Program (CTFP), which outlined a harmonised approach to trade facilitation for SADC Members. The SADC TFP covers 28 trade facilitation measures (TFMs) clustered around four pillars: transparency, predictability, simplification, and cooperation, roughly corresponding to the measures contained in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. One of the TFMs includes the implementation of an electronic certificate of origin (eCoO) for products traded between the SADC countries.

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