Eco protectionism a threat to African products

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pretoria - The increased requirements for health and safety are one of the threats to African products in international markets, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Speaking at the 3rd African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC) General Assembly and Meetings held at the Emperor's Palace on Monday, Davies said "eco protectionism" was emerging under the guise of addressing climate change concerns, particularly from advanced countries.

"For instance, some countries are considering the imposition of border adjustment taxes on imports produced with greater carbon emissions than similar products produced domestically, and subject to carbon emission limits," said Davies.

African countries, said Davies must work together to trade among each other as well as accessing markets external to Africa and to ensure that products available on the continent were of a good quality and were safe.

"This requires governments in Africa to invest in standards, metrology and accreditation infrastructure that will reduce cost to do business in their countries.

"African countries should increase their focus on 'Locking out' unsafe and poor quality imports; and 'Locking in' access to increasingly demanding export markets using technical infrastructure such as AFRAC in their efforts," he said.

AFRAC is a cooperation of accreditation bodies, sub-regional accreditation cooperation and stakeholders whose objective is to facilitate trade and contribute to the protection of health, safety and the environment, on the continent and thereby improve Africa's competitiveness.

The dumping of cheap, sub-standard manufactured goods on African markets has sometimes led to the collapse of local industries as well as served as a major barrier to industrial development.

"Therefore, standards and conformity assessment is required to prevent the influx of sub-standard and unsafe products into African markets and to improve the quality and enhance potential access of African products to export markets," said Davies.

Over the five years AFRAC will work towards pre-peer and peer evaluation of African accreditation bodies in order to recognise their competency through AFRAC, the establishment and roll out of an AFRAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement and obtaining the international recognition of the cooperation.

"This will support industrial development in Africa and exports of our regions products and services. It will also support the work of regulators that protect the health and safety of the African public," said AFRAC chairperson Hassan Shaarawi. -

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