Domestic and Foreign Market Access

The Republic of The Congo is classified as a lower middle income country in Central Africa. The past decade has been characterized by strong and steady economic growth of 6 per cent per annum on average, following incessant violent conflict and stagnation throughout the 1990s. With the economy essentially oil-based, the booming prices during the 90s served to stabilize the economic situation. During the same period, state control increased whilst the economy lacks liberalization in key industries. Reforms towards a market economy and transparency in the oil sector have been continuously slow, despite World Bank/IMF pressure. The Congo has a natural infrastructure asset in the Pointe-Noire port yet road and rail networks remain in a poor state, leaving the port under-utilized. The agriculture and manufacturing sectors would benefit from improved infrastructure, along with electricity access and a more developed financial system. The largest challenge in front of the country is to promote further economy diversification, to advance economic freedom, to resolve institutional weakness, and to rehabilitate the infrastructure.

WTO, 2013, Trade Policy review (CEMAC: Congo)

Trade Policy and Market Access

The Republic of the Congo is a member of the main regional economic communities, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African states (ECCAS). The overlapping of these regional economic communities with different levels of liberalization in their respective domestic markets has created constraints to harmonisation and alignment. The Congo, as a member of the CEMAC customs union, adopts the CEMAC common external tariff (CET) and its simple average MFN tariff rate in 2013 was 18.1 per cent. For a large percentage of imported manufactured goods, the tariff rates can be as high as 3 per cent plus other duties and taxes. High non-tariff barriers such as the overtaxing of goods are major obstacles to regional trade. Despite the establishment of the free trade area among CEMAC countries, the level of intra-community trade remains low; distortion of CET and numerous non-tariff barriers form major impediments to trade in the region.

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

Standard Compliance and Other Relevant Import/Export Restrictions

According to the WTO, the Congo has not yet established an operational sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) enquiry point, nor has it notified any measure (ordinary or emergency) to the WTO SPS. The Ministry responsible for health is in charge of applying SPS measures relating to human health and food, and the Ministry responsible for agriculture is in charge of applying SPS measures and the protection of animal health, in both cases, in collaboration with the Ministry in charge of trade. The Congo complies with the provisions of the FAO International Plant Protection Convention, the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The importation and exportation of animal and plant products are subject to prior authorization and the issue of SPS certificates. On the other hand, the Congo does not have a national regulatory framework for standardization and quality management, or an official technical barrier to trade (TBT) entry point. The lack of the SPS operation system and TBT measures constitute a constraint on the country’s economic integration, particularly in the aspect of export. Therefore, the government is seeking technical assistance and capacity building to bring laws and regulations up to international standards.

OECD, 2010, Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements and Technical Barriers to Trade: An African Perspective