Brooklyn Journal of International Law


Regis Y, Simo


Several aspects of the trade policies of African countries suffer from neglect in the legal literature. When they are the object of research, the focus is sometimes limited to their participation in the dispute settlement system or on the enforceability of special and differential treatment provisions. While practice displays that African countries have almost never been the target of complaints for a number a reasons, those approaches do not always take into consideration African countries’ domestic measures affecting the flow of goods and services, which could eventually trigger disputes. This paper intends to fill that gap and add to the existing stream of research by tackling trade measures geared toward sustainable development and environmental protection in Africa, with a particular focus on the growing body of legislation to restrict the use plastic bags. Multilateral trading rules give the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) flexibility to pursue social and environmental policies provided the latter are compliant with the provisions of the covered agreements. Some African countries have taken the steps to address the regulation of plastic bags by using quantitative restrictions or licensing schemes, while others have combined these border measures with domestic regulations. Coming from all parts of the continent, and all being WTO members, this is their contribution to the debate on sustainable development goals spelled out in the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO. This paper reviews these countries’ regulations, not only individually, but also within the framework of regional economic integration schemes in which they are parties, in search of their compatibility with the multilateral trade rules.