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Saturday, 14 December 2013 16:27

Rwanda: New WTO Trade Deal to Boost Local Exports

By Peterson Tumwebaze

RWANDA, December 14, 2013 (The New Times) -- A trade agreement reached by 159 countries during the World Trade Organisation meeting will not only give Rwanda a strong legal backing in the international markets but also fast track growth and sustainable economic development of the country's export industry, especially the agriculture sector.


Francois Kanimba, the Minister for Trade and Industry disclosed this yesterday while briefing journalists in Kigali about the just concluded ninth World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia last week.

The new international trade agreement says exports from developing countries, including Rwanda, will be allowed to access international markets duty-free by the developed economies, be facilitated with free market information, and more trade investments both logistical and infrastructural, will be scaled up.

Overall, the agreement will see a reduction in bureaucratic trade barriers that have been hindering the export industry, allowing small and medium enterprises to thrive, Kanimba said.

The deal is also expected to add about $1 trillion to the world trade, giving developing nations more scope to increase farm subsidies.

Members also agreed on a model of transferring rights to export and capacity to international markets.

Under this system, Rwanda will be allowed to transfer its rights to export to its neighbors should it run out of stock.

This will be followed by service waivers by the developed economies so as to create free access to markets by the least developed countries.

Kanimba said the trade agreement will not only integrate Rwanda with international markets, but also address the crucial challenges faced by the country's export industry.

He said facilitating Rwanda's agro exports will drive home economic development, create employment opportunities and attract more investments.

"The challenge of trade barriers and limited access to international markets has been the biggest threat to Rwanda's external trade. Having these issues dealt with will not only narrow down our trade deficit gap but also boost the total external trade, thus driving home economic sustainability," Kanimba said.

He added that the agreement gives Rwanda a strong legal backing against the unfair international trade practices emanating from global powers.

"Local investors have been complaining of cheap imported products from some of these big economies suffocating their products, so having our goods accessing international markets duty-free would help make them competitive," he added.

Mark Priestley, the TradeMark East Africa country director, said the deal is an opportunity for the land locked Rwanda to take a center stage and become a regional hub for international trade.

"Coupled with the numerous business reforms the country has conducted in the past years, this deal further strengthens Rwanda's comparative advantage in the international market," Priestley said.

He challenged exporters to ensure quality and value addition to be able to benefit from the trade agreement.

WTO chief Roberto Azevedo last week told world ministers that the organisation's first comprehensive priority will involve efforts to simplify the procedures for doing business across borders.

"For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," Azevedo said in Bali as the organisation reached its first comprehensive agreement since it was founded in 1995.

The African Development Bank said Africa has the longest customs delays in the world taking almost 36 hours to get goods through customs.

On average, it takes $3,245 and seven export documents to export a container of goods to the international market.

Rwanda's total trade increased during the third quarter of 2013, from $600 million in third quarter of 2012 to $1,500 million, the National Institute of Statistics report released last month said. (This story was originally published by The New Times)



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