International trade & business law

International trade law governs how states control, restrict, and regulate exchanges of goods and services between them and professedly aspires to lay down the rules of fair play to level the playing field for all states in the conduct of international economic relations. Cameroon adheres to the multilateral trade system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) since December 13, 1995 and was a member of its predecessor the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since May 3, 1963. Cameroon has also adhered to the agreements of the World Customs Organisation (WCO). Cameroon is equally a member of UNCTAD’s global network of transparent investment procedures and is also a signatory of the Seoul Convention of 1985 establishing the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agreement (MIGA) aimed at safeguarding non-commercial risks. Cameroon has similarly signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption.
As far as regional economic integration is concerned, Cameroon is a member state of ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) and CEMAC (Economic & Monetary Community of Central Africa). Of the six member states of the CEMAC region, five are WTO members (Equatorial Guinea has observer status). Cameroon has ratified the Partnership Agreement between African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union (ACP-EC Partnership Agreement). Cameroon has also signed several bilateral trade and investment agreements with over a dozen countries (including USA, France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Egypt, Germany, Guinea-Conakry, South Korea, Mali, Mauritius, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK of Great Britain & N. Ireland, and the Interim Agreement with a view to an Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Community & its Member States, of the one part, and Cameroon). As a member of the AU (African Union), Cameroon has signed the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) creating a single liberalised market for goods and services, with a view of materializing into a customs union in the near future, and facilitating the movement of capital and persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent.

Cameroon is also a party to several international arbitration agreements, including the Washington Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes establishing the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the OHADA Treaty which established the Common Court of Justice & Arbitration (CCJA) whose rules are inspired by the 1985 Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of the UNCITRAL and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Rules, the Lome Convention (revised in Mauritius in 1995) providing an arbitration mechanism for the settlement of disputes involving African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (ACP) and contractors, suppliers, and service providers financed by the European Development Fund (EDF), the New York Convention on the Recognition & Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the 1998 Rules of Arbitration of the ICC.
Dayspring Law Firm works in synergy with international trade law firms and lawyers in global trade policy hubs (Washington, DC, Geneva, and Brussels) to deliver legal services in the field of international trade and business law. We advise both local and foreign companies on doing business in this part of the world and abroad. We equally advice clients on international trade rules and compliance with these rules, especially on tariff regulations, anti-dumping regulations, quantitative restrictions, issues of subsidies, safeguards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, rules of origin, as well as customs matters touching on HS classification labelling and customs valuation. We offer counselling on schedule of concessions with regards to trade in goods and schedule of commitments with regards to trade in services under the various trade agreements Cameroon is a member to.

Dayspring Law Firm delivers legal services across borders. Our lawyers and legal professionals have experience advising clients on how to navigate sophisticated rules and procedures of international trade, especially WTO law & case law, and trade & sanctions compliance. We help resolve cross-border trade and investment issues, we advise clients on issues related to corporate and financing transactions, anti-competition law, unfair trade practices, resorting to WTO dispute settlement mechanisms (the Dispute Settlement Body) to compel WTO member states to comply with their various obligations under the covered agreements. Our lawyers equally help companies and individuals to defend their intellectual property rights, we advise clients on the impact of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements on their business interests, we assist with customs matters, market access difficulties, and in conducting trade due diligence to assist clients in M&A transactions and other investment transactions.
Private Investment Incentives
In 2002, the Cameroon passed an Investment Charter (Law no 2002/2004 of April 19, 2002 modified by Law no 2004-20 of July 22, 2004 and Ordinance No. 2009 of May 13, 2009), upgrading the 1990 Investment Code. This Charter came into force on April 18, 2013. The raison d’être of the Charter is to liberalise trade and attract foreign investment. Provisions of the 1990 Investment Code regarding the free trade zone remain in effect until the full implementation of the 2002 Investment Charter.

The Charter provisions cover investment activities related to the creation, extension, renewal, restructuring and change of business activity. The prime features of the Charter, which permits one hundred percent (100%) foreign equity ownership, are its indiscriminate and equal treatment of domestic and foreign investors (Article 10), its advocacy of diligence in the attribution of operational licences, access to landed property, the free remission abroad of dividends, capital gains, interests and principal payments on foreign debts, lease payments, royalties and managerial fees and returns on liquidation. Some of these remittances are subject to regional (Central Bank) and government (Ministry of Finance) foreign exchange control clearance requirements. Investors can also freely cash in and keep abroad funds acquired or borrowed abroad as well as incomes proceeding from such transactions, and pay non-resident suppliers of goods and services abroad directly.

Parliament has also passed Law n° 2013/011 of December 16, 2013 Regulating Economic Zones in Cameroon. According to this law, which repeals previous contrary provisions of law, the facility in charge of administrating and delivering permits to operate economic zones is the Agency for the Promotion of Economic Zones (APEZ).

According to Article 5 of the 2013 law on economic zones, the following can be promoters of economic zones: the state or its sub-units, decentralised state territorial entities, consular chambers, employers’ organisations, state universities and private higher educational institutions (private universities and professional or vocational institutions), and foreign investors pooled in the legal form of an Economic Interest Group (OHADA) under the framework of a bilateral cooperation. Promoters of economic zones and enterprises located in these zones are beneficiaries of all incentives prescribed by the law on private investment incentives in Cameroon. The law also covers applicable preferential tariffs on land acquisition, and preferential tariffs for enterprises licensed to operate from the transport sector, port-side activities sector, telecommunication, energy, and utilities sectors. One of the landmarks of the Cameroon Investment Charter is the reduction of corporate tax from 35% to 10% for companies listed on the Douala Stock Exchange.

The December 2013 law equally provides an exhaustive list of types of economic zones corresponding to different investment sectors: agricultural, commercial, free, industrial, scientific, and technological, logistic, services, specialised, agropoles, technopoles, touristic, competitive, university, and hybrid economic zones, etc. The economic zone site falls under the private property of the state or national land and for the purposes of the investment operation, it is leased to the promoter in the form of simple leases or long leases. The conditions for the acquisition of such leases will subsequently be defined by a regulatory instrument.

The 2002 Charter and the December 2013 law are to be read along with annual budget and finance laws, CEMAC customs regulations, the 1994 Tariff Code, the 2008 law on Public-private partnership (PPP) agreements and various sector codes for a proper understanding of the plethora of tax breaks, preferential tariffs and customs incentives available to investments in specific sectors and applicable especially to production equipment and raw material destined for transformation (imports) or already transformed (exports).
In 1989, Cameroon and the USA signed the BIT (Bilateral Investment Treaty) to protect US investments in Cameroon. In addition, the state of Cameroon guarantees domestic and foreign investments which comply with WTO standards and norms. Cameroon Is also subscribed to the WTO Trade Policy Review Mechanism. Cameroon is a signatory of the Washington Convention (enforcement of foreign arbitral awards), New York Convention, Seoul Convention 1985 (MIGA), and the Lome Convention (ACP). All these treaty commitments protect foreign investments and provide viable mechanisms for investment dispute resolution.