Trade Policy and Market Access
Gabon has been a founding WTO member since 1995. The country is a member of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which aims to create a common market, and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), which pursues further economic integration than the ECCAS by setting up a customs and monetary union. As these regional economic communities overlap with different levels of liberalization of their domestic markets, the members face constraints to harmonisation and alignment. In addition to the preferential access to the CEMAC common market, Gabon is also granted preferential access to the market of both the EU and the United States (WTO 2013). As a member of the CEMAC Customs Union, Gabon adopts the common external tariff (CET), the simple MFN average of which is 18.1 per cent (WTO 2013). However, the CET is difficult to be applied because members invoke country-specific exceptions and "safeguard" measures. As Gabon depends much more on imports for its domestic consumption, it applies the exceptions to a varied range of product and therefore its average tariff rate is lower than the CET by being 14.5 per cent (The Heritage Foundation 2013). Gabon applies customs duty to products imported from non-CEMAC countries with the rate from 5 per cent to 30 per cent (African Development Bank 2012). Despite the establishment of the free trade area among CEMAC countries, the level of intra-community trade has remained low; apart from distortion of CET, numerous non-tariff barriers are of impediments to trade in the region (WTO 2013). High non-tariff barriers such as overtaxing of goods; random checkpoints along corridors; highway robbers; and the poor state of major highways are major obstacles to regional trade (African Development Bank 2011).
Standard Compliance and Other Relevant Import/Export Restrictions
With regards to its Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issue, Gabon is following the standard set by the World Health Organization, the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and several other African and global conventions. However, the sanitary control system remains ineffective and costly due to the lack of coordination and overlapping responsibilities among agencies and legal instruments (WTO 2013). Gabon is not address SPS as a barrier to trade, as it applies the same sanitary regulations to any food product, whether it is produced domestically, imported from abroad or for exporting purpose. Within the group of CEMAC, despite the calls for the elimination of any measure that negatively affects trade between parties, there has been no agreement reached upon the technical barriers to trade (TBTs) issue (WTO 2013). In the context of ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Central Africa region, it is anticipated that Gabon (as part of Central Africa group) would cooperate with EU on TBT and SPS standards.
European Commission, 2013, Trade Policy (Central Africa)
WTO, 2013, Trade Policy Review (CEMAC - Common Report)
WTO, 2013, Trade Policy Review (CEMAC - Gabon)