Domestic and Foreign Market Access

The Central African Republic is classified as a low income country. As a fragile post-conflict state, the CAR has been exposed to a delicate political and security situation for more than a decade. The country has faced difficulty in transforming the economy, which has led to a highly vulnerable business climate and basic infrastructure deficit. Also, poor transport infrastructure has severely affected the CAR’s intra-regional trade. A primarily rural and agrarian economy with foreign trade dependant on the extractive industries, the CAR is especially vulnerable to changing climate conditions and global demand for diamonds and wood; and for this reason suffered a contraction in GDP contribution of the industrial sector to 13.1 per cent in 2011.

African Development Bank, 2013, African Economic Outlook (Central African Republic)

Trade Policy and Market Access

The CAR has been a founder member of the WTO since 1995. Within the multilateral trading system, the CAR bounded 62.3 per cent of tariff lines. The average MFN applied tariff in 2011 was 17.8 per cent with agricultural products facing higher rates (21.9 per cent) and non-agricultural products facing slightly lower rates (17.2 per cent). The country is also a member of regional economic communities including; the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). The overlapping of these regional markets has created constraints to harmonisation and alignment of trade policy. The CAR applies CEMAC’s common external tariff (CET), which is 18.1 per cent on simple average in 2013 and grants tariff preferences to imports originating in the other CEMAN countries. Despite the establishment of the free trade area among CEMAC countries, the level of intra-community trade has remained low; distortion of the CET and numerous non-tariff barriers form impediments to trade in the region. High non-tariff barriers such as overtaxing of goods; random checkpoints along corridors; highway robbers; and the poor state of major highways are obstacles to regional trade (African Development Bank 2013).

African Development Bank, 2011, Central Africa – Regional Integration Strategy Paper, 2011-2015

Standard Compliance and Other Relevant Import/Export Restrictions

According to the WTO Trade Policy Review, the CAR has neither national regulatory framework on standardization and quality management, including national standards, nor is a member of the International Standardization Organization. The country is creating the institution authorized to adopt international standards and formulate national standards. As the common effort at the regional level, the countries signed an agreement creating the Central African Sub-regional Metrology Organization and lunched the CEMAC Regional Infrastructure-Quality Development Project (IQ-CEMAC). Concerning sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, The CAR complies with International Plant Protection Convention, the Codex Alimentarious Commission, and the World Organization for Animal Health. It checks the implementation of SPS regulations through relevant Directorate and Code. However, the lack of an operational SPS system and the inadequate infrastructure hamper the development of trade and the quality of local products. At the regional level, the Regional Food Safety Programme has laid the foundation for the harmonization of the rules, addressing the pesticides as one of phytosanitary measures. The organization for Coordination of the Fight against Endemic Diseases in Central Africa oversees the process of harmonization of national pharmaceutical policies.

WTO, 2013, Trade Policy Review (CEMAC: CAR)