The government is facing a showdown with the UN and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over SA’s attempts to bend the rules of the recently instituted Trade Facility Agreement. The agreement mainly targets developing countries as a means of boosting trade, wealth creation and job opportunities by expediting freight movement, cutting red tape and harmonising customs. Broadly speaking, it provides technical assistance and capacity-building and promises money and time-saving through a more streamlined movement of trade goods. Africa’s reaction to the agreement is lukewarm at best, with only 17 of the WTO’s 40 African member states signing on. The organisation’s global membership is 164. The South African government is worried about the insistence by the agreement’s sponsors, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the WTO, that member governments are obliged to participate on a joint committee with the private sector. The Department of Trade and Industry has formed an interdepar...

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