East African States on course to eliminate non-tariff barriers
The East African Community customs territory monitoring and evaluation committee says the region is on the verge of eradicating regional non-tariff trade barriers (NTBs) that have proved to be a major impediment to trade.
Persistence of non-tariff barriers still affects trade flows, and reduces the benefits to be accrued from the regional integration process, amid a raft of trade challenges which have been affecting the region such as the recent milk tiff Kenya and Uganda.
This saw the two countries lock horns last month after Kenya seized milk from Uganda, three years after Tanzania also seized and incinerated 6,400 Kenya-sourced chicks.
Speaking during a regional member’s states forum in Mombasa, Deputy Commissioner of customs, Rwanda Revenue Authority, William Musoni revealed the region was in discussion on the way forward to harmonise and reduce the NTB arising from administrative and procedural processes in each country.
“Despite the progress, the region is still experiencing persistent non-tariff barriers arising from administrative and procedural processes.
However, we are working towards a way we can reduce and harmonise this to help business correlation in our region,” said Musoni.
Musoni further said they were reviewing the common external tariff to respond to the changing and dynamic business environment.
He said that a review had involved wider consultation with stakeholders in partner states by the National Task Force and the Regional Task Force.
In addition, he said, the region was seeking to reduce the time taken at the border so as to facilitate trade.
One of the achievements is the completion of construction of 12 to 15 targeted border posts which will ensure smooth operations, hence a sustainability strategy has been developed.
He confirmed that 116 firms had been accredited with an average revenue contribution of 10 per cent to partner states for the implementation of the EAC regional Authorised Economic Operator Programme.
“We have also been exploring the possibility of entering into mutual recognition agreement with the rest of the world to allow our traders enjoy benefits when trading with other regions of the world,” said Musoni.
Musoni said customs automation has been enhanced in all states with upgrades of the customs systems and migration to more advanced and robust systems in the region.
He confirmed that a study was being undertaken to establish appropriate legal and system integration frame work for the development of a centralised inter-connectivity platform to facilitate exchange of information required to support the processes.
Since the establishment of EAC, comprising Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, the region has seen a steady strengthening of economic and political ties among the partner States.
Despite high-level commitments, trade barriers continue to affect the free flow of goods and services amongst EAC states.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) defines NTBs as restrictions, unrelated to tariffs, that result from quotas, import licensing systems, prohibitions, regulations, conditions or specific market requirements that make the importation or exportation of products difficult and/ or costly.
Additionally, the EAC defines NTBs as laws, regulations and administrative and technical requirements (other than tariffs) imposed by a partner state, whose effect is to impede trade.