Trade Policy and Market Access
Rwanda has been a member of the WTO since 1996. Rwanda’s average MFN applied tariff in 2012 was 12.8 per cent. Agricultural products face higher barriers (19.9 per cent) compared to non-agricultural products (11.7 per cent). Rwanda acceded to the East African Community (EAC) in 2007, and began implementing the common external tariff (CET) in 2009. The EAC Council of Ministers approved an exception for Rwandan manufacturers to import specified raw materials and industrial inputs free of customs tariffs for five years from 2009 (WTO 2012). However, Rwanda’s exports to the EAC remain far smaller by imports, despite having risen greatly in recent years because exports are still destined to a few traditional trade partners, and utilization of preferential market access opportunities remains low. As a member of EAC, Rwanda has also participated in the negotiation of a comprehensive regional Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. It also belongs to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) (WTO 2012; Bertelsmann Siftung 2014). According to these agreements, Rwanda has amended its legislation for free movement of goods, services, capital and limited types of labour.
African Development Bank, 2013, African Economic Outlook (Rwanda)
Bertelsmann Siftung, 2014, Rwanda Country Report
World Bank, 2013, Rwanda Economic Update
Standard Compliance and Other Relevant Import/Export Restrictions
The Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) is in charge of promoting standards, quality management, and metrology activities, as well as ensuring their application. Technical regulations are developed by multiple ministries. According to the WTO Trade Policy Review (2012), 528 Rwandan standards were harmonized with EAC standards, and 304 with COMESA standards. Institutions responsible for the inspection system, quality control laboratories, and the certification system are fragmented. Moreover, the legal and regulatory framework on sanitary and phytosanitary measures is insufficient. Due to environmental concerns, Rwanda prohibits the importation of plastic bags. This may become a barrier to export together with the absence of packaging plants in Rwanda because exporters must obtain permission from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority to import plastic bags as packaging material for export.
WTO, 2012, Trade Policy Review: EAC