Nairobi, Saturday, August 18, 2018: A total of 199 out of 204 non-tariff barriers to regional trade that have been reported among the COMESA Member States since the establishment of the Tripartite NTB Online Reporting Mechanism in 2008, have been resolved. This represents a success rate of 97.5%.
That notwithstanding, a disturbing phenomenon is that reports of NTBs keep coming to the COMESA Secretariat and this frustrates the efforts to enhance intra-COMESA Trade, says the COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe.
In her speech at the opening of the 34th COMESA Trade and Customs Committee (TCM) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, the SG observed that though member States had, upon signing the COMESA Treaty agreed to abolish all non-tariff barriers to trade among themselves, new ones kept cropping up thus affecting intraregional trade.
“Most Member States have taken long to remove certain NTBs and to operationalize the COMESA Customs Union and the launch of the Common Market,” she said in the statement presented by the Assistant Secretary General Dr Kipyego Cheluget.
The SG appreciated the progress made in implementing regional programmes with substantial support from International Cooperating Partners. However, she noted that little progress has been achieved in domesticating trade facilitation instruments at national level as Member States took their time to ratify and implement them.
Since the establishment of the Free Trade Area in 2000, intra-COMESA exports have 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 18 July 2018.
High 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 COMESA region to do business online. E-logistics targets improvement in transportation of goods from suppliers to customers, while e-legislation address the readiness of laws in Member States to cater for digital transactions.
Other key issues in regional integration that were discussed were reports by Member States that are not participating in the COMESA Free Trade Area, Non-Tariff Barriers in the COMESA Region, the Kenya Sugar Safeguard and updates on the Tripartite FTA Negotiations and the African Free Trade Africa Free Area.
Speaking at the same forum, the Principal Secretary, State Department of Trade in Kenya, Dr Chris Kiptoo, called for scaling up and sustaining awareness campaigns of the COMESA 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 sensitize 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 Mr. Samson Wangusi.
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 as some of the most successful trade facilitation instruments which stakeholders need to know about.