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COMESA says 98% regional non-tariff barriers resolved

A total of 199 out of 204 non-tariff barriers to regional trade reported among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states since the establishment of the Tripartite NTB online reporting mechanism in 2008, have been resolved, the bloc said.

In a statement, the COMESA secretariat noted that this achievement represents a success rate of 97.5 per cent

While opening the 34th COMESA Trade and Customs Committee (TCM) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, last week a senior official observed that though member states had, upon signing the COMESA Treaty, agreed to abolish all non-tariff barriers to trade new NTBs kept cropping up.

“Most member states have taken long to remove certain NTBs and to operationalise the COMESA Customs Union and the launch of the Common Market,” said the COMESA Assistant Secretary General Dr Kipyego Cheluget.

Since the establishment of the Free Trade Area in 2000, intra-COMESA exports reportedly increased from US$1.5 billion to US$ 7.9 billion in 2017. The global COMESA exports stand at US$ 86 912.7 million while the share of intra-COMESA exports to COMESA global exports remains low at 9.1%.

The trade and customs committee meeting considered the reports of the 3rd Trade and Trade Facilitation Sub-Committee and the 4th Heads of Customs Sub-Committee that met earlier in the week. The meetings were attended by a record 21 Member States, including Tunisia and Somalia, which were admitted to COMESA on July 18, 2018. On the agenda of the TCM was the implementation of the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) which is being rolled out in Member States.

The DFTA has three aspects: e-trade, e-logistics and e-legislation.

E-trade will promote online commerce by providing a platform for traders in the  COMESA region to do business online. E-logistics targets improvement in transportation of goods from suppliers to customers, while e-legislation addresses the readiness of laws in Member States to cater for digital transactions.

The Principal Secretary, State Department of Trade in Kenya, Dr Chris Kiptoo, called for scaling up and sustaining awareness campaigns of the bloc’s protocols and the intended benefit of regional integration.

“Ultimately, trade and investment are spearheaded by the private sector and this is the audience we need to sensitise for them to have the utmost confidence in the opportunities created by regional integration,” Dr Kiptoo said in a speech delivered by the Director of Administration Samson Wangusi. “Awareness creation will be crucial for COMESA.”

Dr Kiptoo cited the COMESA Yellow Card, the COMESA Customs Document, the Simplified Trade Regime, Non-Tariff Barriers Regulations, the COMESA Fund, and the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee.