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Antananarivo, Saturday, October 15, 2016: COMESA Secretariat will publish annual assessments of the benefits and challenges of COMESA Free Trade Area for consideration by the Member States.

The assessment will cover trade in goods and services, logistics and trade facilitation, as well as industrialization and infrastructure development which contribute to boosting intra-regional trade

This was one of the decisions made by the 36th COMESA Council of Ministers meeting in Antananarivo 14-15 October 2015. The Council asked Member States that are not in the FTA to take definitive steps to join it to create an integrated internal market.

Currently, 15 out of the 19 member States are participating in the FTA. They include Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In December 2015, the Democratic Republic of Congo passed the required law that allowed it to join the FTA. Its accession to the FTA will be done through a three year phase down approach starting in 2016 with a 40% reduction on duty. This will be followed by a 30% reduction in 2017 and another 30% in 2018. This will eventually bring the charges to 0% which is a requirement for a country to fully participate in the FTA. The Council asked DR Congo to complete the tariff reductions as set out in the legislation.

The COMESA FTA was launched in October 2000 to provide duty free and quota free market access to member States on COMESA originating products. The regional grouping has established a set or criteria known as the Rules of Origin to ensure that goods that have undergone some processing or are wholly produced within the region get preferential tariff treatment when crossing the border.

Uganda informed the meeting that its tariff reduction schedule will soon be transmitted to the Secretariat. Eritrea was still applying 80 % tariff reduction in its trade with the rest of COMESA Member States while Ethiopia was still consulting on effecting tariff reductions which were reduced by 10% in 1989 for COMESA originating products. Swaziland had a derogation which was linked to the establishment of the Tripartite FTA when it would participate in the Tripartite FTA.