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NRA’s Implementation of WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) PDF Print E-mail
Business
Written by Ann Marie Dumbuya   
Tuesday, 26 July 2016 17:44

In 1996, some WTO members raised the need for an agreement on trade facilitation as part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements. Negotiations on the said agreement however lasted for nearly 10 years. It was only in November 2014, that WTO members agreed to incorporate the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) as part of the WTO Agreements.

The main purpose of the TFA is to foster more efficient customs clearance procedures, promote the use of modern technologies to ensure the speedy movement of goods and people, advance effective cooperation between customs and other relevant authorities involved in trade facilitation, and to improve technical assistance and capacity building support in these areas.

The TFA covers trade in all goods and contains 24 Articles in 3 Sections. Section I refers to trade facilitation standards and obligations, Section II relates to the flexibilities provided for developing countries with regards timelines for the implementation of specific provisions of the Agreement, and Section III pertains to institutional arrangements. The high points of this agreement in relation to the NRA are:

  • Article 1 Publication and Availability of Information
  • Article 2 Opportunity to Comment Information before entry into force and Consultations
  • Article 3 Advance Rulings
  •  Article 4 Procedures for Appeal or Review
  • Article 5 Other Measures to enhance Impartiality, Non-Discrimination and Transparency
  • Article 6 Disciplines on fees and charges imposed on or in connection with Importation and Exportation and Penalties
  • Article 7 Release and Clearance Of Goods
  • Article 8 Border Agency Cooperation
  • Article 9 Movement Of Goods intended for Import under Customs Control
  • Article 10 Formalities connected with Importation, Exportation and Transit
  • Article 11 Freedom of Transit
  • Article 12 Customs Cooperation

From May 9-10 this year, a stakeholders’ workshop was held at the Sierra Lighthouse Hotel in Freetown to assess the country’s alignment with the TFA. The workshop was oragnised by the Ministry of Trade and Industry with support from the World Bank, World Customs Organisation (WCO) and United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD).  The workshop which was facilitated by representatives from the World Bank and WCO drew participants from relevant private and public sector organizations like the NRA. At that workshop, discussions were held on how the country is implementing conditions of each of the 24 Articles and necessary actions for implementations were recommended for Articles which were deemed to have been unmet.

NRA’s Assistant Commissioner in charge of Operations in the Customs Services Department, Mr. Abu Bakarr Kamara who was among representatives from the NRA that attended the WTO workshop. In an interview, he stated that the institution has made tremendous strides in meeting the conditions of almost all the Articles that relates to its operation:

  • Article 1 on publication and availability of information

Mr. Kamara said that the NRA has met most of this requirement. He said the Customs Act, 2011 and supplementary Finance Acts in recent years cover customs and trade related legislations/information including valuation, classification, and appeals which are available in text, and freely online on the NRA website, www.nra.gov.sl . He said the NRA also publishes booklets with specific information on import, export and transit procedures such as the Import/Export Process Map.

  • Article 2 on opportunity to comment information before entry into force and consultation

The Assistant Commissioner said that consistent with the TFA, the NRA has been steadfast in its stakeholder engagements, adding that the Authority is constantly collaborating with stakeholders on new regulations on Customs matters. He said currently, the Authority is implementing its Brokers Regulation after having extensively consulted with the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agencies (ACFA) and  importers.

  • Article 3 & 4 on advance rulings, appeal or review procedures

Mr. Kamara said that based on new Customs regulations, applicants for advance ruling can expect a binding or non-binding decision on the treatment that may be meted on imports with regards to Classification, Valuation, and Ecowas Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS). He said Section 29-35 of the Customs Act, 2011 makes adequate provisions for appeals, re-determination and appeals, appeals from importers, decision of appeals, further appeal.

  • Article 7 on release and clearance of goods

Regarding this provision, Mr. Kamara said the Commissioner-General of the NRA has overseen the modernisation of Customs with the introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) in 2010. He said the establishment of specialised units such as Valuation, Harmonized System (HS) and Rules of Origin, Risk Management and Post Clearance has improved efficiency in the clearance of goods. He said with ASCUDA, goods considered low risks are released without physical inspection.

  • Article 8 on border agency cooperation

Mr. Kamara noted that transits from Sierra Leone to Guinea is more frequent than Liberia, and that since Sierra Leone and Guinea share a common border post, goods in transit from Sierra Leone or  Guinea are subjected to uniform controls especially from the exporting end. He said the highpoint of this coordination is the use of ASYCUDA++ by both administrations which makes for easy exchange of information.

  • Article 9, 10 & 11 on movement of goods under customs control intended for import, formalities connected with import/export and transits, and freedom on transit respectively

Mr. Kamara explained that temporary importation into Sierra Leone is granted on imports subject to re-exportation in the same state, with conditional relief from duties and taxes as maintained in Section 44 of the Customs Act 2011.

From the above explanations provided by the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Operations at NRA’s Customs Services Department, it is evident that the NRA is indeed effectively meeting established standards in customs operations & trade facilitation. It is also clear that trade facilitation creates a lot of opportunities both to the business community and government. Traders gain through faster delivery and reduced transaction costs, while government profit in terms of enhanced revenue collection and increased economic efficiency.

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Business News

ACC CAPACITATES SIERRA LEONE COMMERCIAL BANK STAFF ON ANTI-BRIBERY AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ISSUES

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the request of the Management of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) on Thursday 20th July, 2017 commenced anti- bribery and anti-corruption training with staff of the Bank.

The training which was held in the Bank's Conference Room 9th Floor, Christian Smith Building 29/31 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown attracted over twenty members of the Executive Management.

Addressing colleagues, the Managing Director, SLCB, Idrissa Aloma Kamara disclosed that the Bank has integrated into the Bank's operations anti-corruption measures, such as the development of anti-corruption policy, anti-graft messages inscribed on Bank Statements and sensitization of staff on the dangers of corruption. With all these, the MD stated, it is the view of the Bank that the ACC which is the statutory body responsible for the campaign against corruption be brought in, to provide awareness training on anti-bribery issues for an efficient and effective banking system.

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Media News

Two veteran Journalists, now in the United States have paid a courtesy call on Sierra Leone's Ambassador

Two very respected and veteran Journalists who are in the United States of America for various reasons have called on Sierra Leone’s Amr. Bockari Kortu Stevens not only to appreciate the work of the Embassy, but also to pay courtesy as protocol demands.

Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson, former Lecturer Fourah Bay College, former Director of Information Ministry of Information and Communications, Former Director Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Former Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) and stringer French News Agency  etc. is on vacation and Mr. Cyril Juxon Smith Director Information and Communications House of Parliament, former Acting Director General Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and former UNESCO Media Consultant  is in the United States of America to attend the funeral of his father.

Speaking at the Ambassador’s residence on 4821 Colorado Avenue, Washington DC  Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson said “Thank  you Amr. Stevens for accommodating us in the middle of your tight schedule, and also to discuss with us in a homely spirit.

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Commentary

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT

A PASSIONATE LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT:  44TH EDITION

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT
 Your Excellency Sir,
 It’s been six months since I subscribed to my usual publications of this piece. And this is primarily because I have been out of the country for the entire period, and as such would not normally objectively tender a subscription. I do apologize to my readers for this. So having being in Monrovia, Liberia for the recently concluded ECOWAS Summit, I would like to do some analysis on such a historic august body and gathering of this sub-Saharan/West African region.
 
In resume, among other crucial achievements, ECOWAS, through its military apparatus, ECOMOG, played very sacrificial and invaluable roles in bringing peace, security and democratic governance to both Sierra Leone and Liberia during their past civil wars, and most recently ensuring that the Gambian people’s democratic change of government from the notorious dictatorial twenty seven years regime of Yaya Jarmeh, to the current government of President Adama Barrow, through their tactical robust intervention, overseen by President Helen JohnsonSirleaf of Liberia and other ECOWAS Presidents/actors, was enforced. Furthermore, ECOWAS has also spearheaded the enactment of several socio-political, advocacy and economic treaties in the sub region.
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View Point

WHY SIERRA LEONEANS HATE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

Honestly speaking Sierra Leoneans are well known for their hospitality all over the world, especially in Africa. But ironically many of them hate each other. But they love foreigners. They have high respect for strangers. But unfortunately they do not have respect among themselves. You can attest this to what is happening in the social media. Where they are showing their pull him down (PhD) syndrome. By castigating their compatriots unnecessarily. Some of them just because of jealousy and envious evil spirit they possess. They prefer to promote foreigners than their own brothers and sisters both in and out of the country.

Day in day out they are insulting each other.They are using all sorts of vulgar languages against each other. And even their own highly respected president in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma they are insulting him openly. Therefore, it is an open secret that many Sierra Leoneans are not well cultured.

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News - Press Release

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Ms. Browne wants the Board to hold outreach events in the village to educate the people on issues of law relating to domestic violence, gender, women’s rights, redress mechanisms and support services for victims.

‘We want to benefit from the Legal Aid Board’s Legal Empowerment Programme because there is an urgent need for one in the community,’ Ms. Browne told the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles on the phone. ‘The situation is desperate. I am afraid if you do not come in now the situation could spiral out of control.’

The call follows series of referral of victims of domestic violence to the Legal Aid Board office in Freetown. The latest victim sent to the Board is one Baindu who was battered by her boyfriend Borbor Abu in the presence of their one year old son.

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Society -Local News

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Other beneficiaries include the WAN POT Comedians, members of the National Youth Coalition and six senior officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). The latter includes the highest ranking female military officer, Brigadier Kestoria Kabia and the Director of Gender and Equal Opportunities at the Ministry of Defence Col. Tucker.

The training is aimed at equipping staff and partners with the requisite skills and techniques required for effective and efficient ADR. Moreover, the trainees should be able to use ADR as an alternative to litigation and using effective skill of arbitration, mediation, negotiation and active listening. 

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Development

30 Staff of the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development will go China for Seminar on Economic Planning

Thirty (30) staff of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development will depart the shore of Freetown to China on 14th August 2017. The purpose of their trip is to attend a seminar on Medium and Long-Term Economic planning for Sierra Leone. The National Development and Reform Commission of China will organize the seminar from 16th August to 7th September 2017 in the capital city of Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

The Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Freetown, Mr. Shen Xiaokai met with the 30 participants at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) on 2rd August 2017. In his remarks he told the participants that in December 2016, His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu Kargbo visited China, where they had high level bilateral meetings with Chinese Government Officials. 

He said this seminar is as a result of those meetings. “When China makes a commitment, China will fulfil it” he reiterated. He said The Ministry of Finance is one of the most important ministries in this country, therefore this seminar was designed specifically to meet the needs of the ministry.

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Politics

News from China, June 28th: Youth Affairs Minister addresses 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development in Beijing, China
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Youth Affairs has said, the 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development hosted by the Chinese government should help enhance the ties of friendship and foster the wheels of bilateral cooperation between the two nations and particularly strengthen cooperation in the field of human resource development.
 
Hon. Bai Mamoud Bangura spoke on Wednesday, 28th June, 2017, at the start of the week long Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation, which has brought together participants from various countries, including eight (8) from Sierra Leone.
 
According to minister Bangura, in line with the spirit of friendship and cooperation, the event could serve as an opportunity to jointly define new strategic directions in Sierra Leone’s ties with China and in opening up another episode of friendship and cooperation between the two.
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