Domestic and Foreign Market Access

Overview: Trade Policy and Business Environment

The Gabonese Republic is classified as an upper middle income country with one of the highest per capita GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 95 per cent of its export is primary goods, and around 85 per cent is products of the extractive industries. Gabon is mainly importing manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment (WTO 2013). Its dependence on oil makes Gabon’s economy vulnerable to external factors. Moreover, weak infrastructure, small size of the market, and the difficult in getting credits are the major impediments to Gabon’s economic growth. With an aim to be an emerging country by 2035, Gabon’s national strategy (2011-2015) focuses on policy reforms and the development of infrastructure that foster a competitive business climate. In addition, the government plans to streamline the coordination in public administration, to promote more diversified growth and to support the non-oil growth sectors (African Development Bank Group 2011).

WTO, 2013, Trade Policy Review (CEMAC - Gabon)
WTO, 2013, Trade Policy Review (CEMAC - Common Report)
African Development Bank, 2011, Regional Integration Strategy Paper 2011-2015 (Central Africa)
African Development Bank, 2011, Country Strategy Paper 2011-2015 (Gabon)
African Development Bank, 2012, African Economic Outlook 2012 (Gabon)
International Monetary Fund, 2013, Country Report (Gabon)
The Heritage Foundation, 2013, 2014 Index of Economic Freedom Index (Gabon)

Domestic Market Access The pillar assesses the level and complexity of a country’s tariff protection as a result of its trade policy. This component includes the effective trade-weighted average tariff applied by a country, the share of goods imported duty free and the complexity of the tariff regime, measured through tariff variance, the prevalence of tariff peaks and specific tariffs, and the number of distinct tariffs. 132 3.04
Foreign Market Access The pillar assesses tariff barriers faced by a country’s exporters in destination markets. It includes the average tariffs faced by the country as well as the margin of preference in destination markets negotiated through bilateral or regional trade agreements or granted in the form of trade preferences. 96 1.95
Tariff rate (%) This indicator is calculated as a trade-weighted average of all the applied tariff rates, including preferential rates that a country applies to the rest of the world. The weights are the trade patterns of the importing country’s reference group (2012 data). An applied tariff is a customs duty that is levied on imports of merchandise goods. 129 14.33
Complexity of tariffs , index 1-7 (best) This indicator is calculated as the average of the following indicators: Tariff dispersion, Specific tariffs and Number of distinct tariffs. See description of each individual indicator for more details. Prior to averaging, values for each indicator were transformed to a 1–7 score, using the min-max method. 26 6.59
Tariffs dispersion (standard deviation) This indicator reflects differences in tariffs across product categories in a country’s tariff structure. The variance is calculated across all the tariffs on imported merchandise goods, at the 6-digit level of the Harmonized Schedule. 91 9.46
Tariffs peaks (%) This indicator is the ratio of the number of tariff lines exceeding three times the average domestic tariff (across all products) to the MFN (most-favoured nation) tariff schedule. The tariff schedule is equal to the total number of tariff lines for each country. These tariffs are revised on a yearly basis. 1 0.00
Specific tariffs (%) This indicator is the ratio of the number of Harmonized System (HS) tariff lines, with at least one specific tariff, to the total number of HS tariff lines. A specific tariff is a tariff rate charged on fixed amount per quantity (as opposed to ad valorem) 1 0.00
Number of distinct tariffs This indicator reflects the number of distinct tariff rates applied by a country to its imports across all sectors. 19 5.00
Share of duty-free imports (%) Share of trade, excluding petroleum, that is imported free of tariff duties, taking into account MFN tariffs and preferential agreements. Tariff data is from 2013 or most recent year available and imports data is from 2012 130 4.06
Tariffs faced (%) This indicator is calculated as the trade-weighted average of the applied tariff rates, including preferential rates that the rest of the world applies to each country. The weights are the trade patterns of the importing country’s reference group (2012 data). A tariff is a customs duty that is levied by the destination country on imports of merchandise goods 112 5.61
Index of margin of preference in destination markets, 0-100 (best) This indicator measures the percentage by which particular imports from one country are subject to lower tariffs than the MFN rate. It is calculated as the average of two components: 1) the trade-weighted average difference between the MFN tariff and the most advantageous preferential duty (advantage score), and 2) the ratio of the advantage score to the trade-weighted average MFN tariff level. This allows capturing both the absolute and the relative margin of preference. 86 15.92
Source : World Economic Forum, Global Enabling Trade Report 2014

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)