Under the auspices of the WCO/JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Joint Project and with the kind host of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) represented by the Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA), the fourth Working Group Activity of the Master Trainers Programme (MTP) on Rules of Origin (RoO) for East and Southern Africa was held in Mombasa, Kenya, from 4-8 December 2023. The same group of Master Trainer candidates who participated in the previous three Working Group (WG) activities from thirteen Customs administrations in East and Southern Africa, namely Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe got together again for this sub-regional activity.
This WG activity was the fourth in a series of progressive activities for the MTP on RoO. The Master Trainer Programme aims to develop sustainable training capacity within the Customs administrations by developing 1) a pool of well-experienced trainers and (2) regionally featured training materials and programmes to be used by these trainers. The MTP on RoO also aims to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). To this end, the MTP trains the same nominated participants (WG members) from respective Customs Administrations through 5 working groups and intersessional activities for 2-3 years. In addition, the MTP on RoO, which started in September 2021, is intended to cooperate with African WCO Members to support the smooth implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The WCO is pleased to announce the publication of the Interim Report of the Exploratory Study on a possible strategic review of the Harmonized System (HS). The interim report provides information on the state of consideration to date, outlining the preliminary analysis of the inputs collected. The report strongly affirms the HS as a crucial trade classification system with no identified superior alternative. It also recognises that there are areas where improvements to the HS could be made to improve usability or extend its capabilities. The analysis consists of two sections:
The first section deals with potential improvements to specific areas/aspects of the HS, its tools, and procedural matters to strengthen the usability and predictability of the HS.
The second section explores potential strategies to respond to changing needs, noting that some of new expectations on the HS can be challenging or infeasible as the HS is currently structured.
All Inputs were collected through discussion, online surveys, symposia, and direct submissions from the WCO Members and other stakeholders, including representatives of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Industry Associations, National Government Agencies, the private sector and academia.
On 29 December 2023, Madagascar notified the WTO's Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 27 December a safeguard investigation on polypropylene woven sheaths and bags.
An increasing number of shipping vessels has been rerouted in the past two weeks to avoid the Suez Canal amid heightened security risks, causing a nearly 40% year-on-year drop in shipments of wheat through the Canal, to around 0.5 million metric tonnes, according to the WTO Wheat Dashboard.
On 17 January 2024, Türkiye notified the WTO's Committee on Safeguards that it initiated on 12 January 2024 two safeguard investigations: on “knitted or crocheted fabrics” and on “other paper and cardboard”.
The WTO circulated the panel report in the case brought by the United States in “Turkey — Additional Duties on Certain Products from the United States” (DS561).
WTO members negotiating the accession of Timor-Leste on 11 January 2024 agreed by consensus, ad referendum, on the terms of the country’s WTO membership, paving the way for the least-developed country (LDC) to join the organization. With the conclusion of the Working Party's mandate, the accession package for Timor-Leste will be submitted to ministers for a formal decision at the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on 26-29 February.