The COMESA Secretariat conducted a training and capacity building workshop on Rules of Origin on 18-20 September 2013 at the Hilton Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop was officially opened by Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, Principal Secretary, Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism whose speech was read on his behalf by Mrs Joyce Ogundo, Director of Internal Trade in the same Ministry.
He welcomed the participants to Kenya, and Nairobi in particular, and wished them an enjoyable working time during the course of their stay.
He spelt out that the workshop had been organised principally to enhance the capacities of the participants in understanding and implementation of the COMESA Rules of Origin. He expressed his gratitude to the Secretariat for organising this very important workshop taking into account the important role that rules of origin play in an FTA such as COMESA’s trade.
“Let me at the outset underscore that the cardinal role that Rules of Origin play cannot be over-emphasized in facilitating movement of goods across regions. Apart from enabling determination of origin of products for various reasons, distinguished participants may wish to note that intra-COMESA trade that stood at about US $3 billion in 2000 at the launch of the COMESA FTA rose to US $19.3 billion in 2012,” he said.
The Principal Secretary lamented over the fact that non-tariff barriers continued to negate benefits that trade liberalization had brought in spite of Article 49 of the Treaty that provides for the elimination of Non Tariff Barriers and prohibits Member States from introducing new ones on intra-COMESA imports.
Notwithstanding that preferential rules of origin should essentially enhance and facilitate trade among the Member states which in turn should spur investments into the region in general and into member states’ economies in particular, the region has been experiencing unprecedented delays at ports of entry in intra-trade while information is constantly being sought from Secretariat largely due to improper application and at times limited understanding of the COMESA Rules of Origin.
This has invariably led to rendering regional goods uncompetitive due to demurrages and time lost in exchanging relevant information to facilitate clearance of the goods. These delays could also dissuade regional sourcing of products and divert trade elsewhere. Consequently, whereas effective implementation of the rules of origin could lead to increased opportunities through flexibility that the five origin criteria present to exporters of regional goods, it’s equally true that if rules of origin are not effectively applied, they could constitute barriers to intra-trade.
It is in this connection that this regional workshop on COMESA Rules of Origin had been organised targeting officials responsible for implementing COMESA Rules of origin.
The workshop was well attended by trade and customs experts from 18 of the 19 COMESA Member States and facilitated by trade experts from the Secretariat.