Imagine you were exporting some perishable goods abroad. However, you find out once your goods reach the destination port that they cannot be allowed into the country because of a newly introduced requirement or standard that your product does not meet. The goods have to be destroyed or returned. You stand to suffer massive losses and possibly lose a buyer. This hypothetical situation can happen in real life.
Scenarios such as these led the World Trade Organization (WTO) to introduce measures requiring members to explicitly notify other members before adopting new measures if these are likely to affect international trade and provide an opportunity for comments. The requirements are captured in the WTO Sanitary and Phtosanitary (SPS) Agreement and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement.
But how can an individual exporter, particularly an SME, keep track of all the changes that might occur?
Introducing the ePing Electronic Notification System (ENS)
ePing enables timely access to these notifications and facilitates dialogue amongst the public and private sector in addressing potential trade problems at an early stage. The system is publicly available on the internet for anyone to use.
It works as follows: Users can access notification records online by going to www.epingalert.org. Notifications are searchable by multiple parameters including: the product name (HS or ICS code), whether it is TBT or SPS related and notifying country among others. Further, anyone can register on the system to receive notification alerts by email.
A registered user can save preferences of products and countries of interest to narrow down such alerts to their area of interest. Documents related to the notification and other details are also available for download on ePing. Registered users can also discuss notifications online.
The Hub is looking into supporting the adoption of the ENS across the EAC thus enabling them meet their requirements under the WTO SPS and TBT agreements. The Hub will be working with government, through ministries and agencies with SPS and TBT related responsibilities, and private sector stakeholders, through apex bodies such as manufacturing associations in the EAC Partner States to sensitize stakeholders and carry out capacity building on ePing. The system has been piloted in Uganda with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards over the past several months through the assistance of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA).