East African Community wants Regional Blocs to Lift Cross-border restrictions to facilitate Inter-regional Trade

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The East Africa Community (EAC) on Wednesday appealed to regional economic blocs to harmonize their trade policies in order to facilitate cross-border business.

EAC Director General in Charge of Customs and Trade, Peter Kiguta called on COMESA, East Africa Community (EAC) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to remove typical trade barriers that hinder intra-Africa trade.

“All the three regional economic communities have different trading instruments which subject traders to varied policies that hamper trade. These trade barriers should not exist in the first place because we need to have goods moving within the region,” Kiguta said during a regional forum held in Nairobi.

Kiguta said Africa is dealing more with the rest of the world as opposed to intra-Africa trade which currently stands at only 13 percent.

“The three trade regions which comprise of 26 countries with a total population of 640 million people and cumulative GDP of 1 trillion U.S. dollars, would rank the 13th largest economy of the world if it were one country,” he said.

The forum brought together policymakers, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders from the three economic blocs to deliberate on agricultural trade policies and food security in the proposed agreement and come up with actionable policy recommendations.

The proposed Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) was launched in June 2015 with the aim of reinvigorating the regional integration agenda in Africa and is expected to strengthen trade linkages in areas of industrial and infrastructure development.

Kiguta said the region in particular, and Africa in general has not been speaking with one voice on matters pertaining to trade and called for the standardization of goods in order to protect the health of people, animals and plants.

Experts say economic integration requires political will and commitment for nations to relinquish parts of their sovereign decision-making powers to a regional authority with a view to achieve economies of scale.

Creation of a single space would require the states to harmonize national economic and social policies, create infrastructure, and facilitate trade.

COMESA Chief Executive Officer, Age Nchula, said the regional economic bloc has grown by over 300 percent since inception in 1981 and recorded over 700 million dollars worth of trade.

“Challenges of moving goods from one country to another should be cleared because there is need to match what happens in the office with what is going on the ground so that areas with surplus commodities serve those regions with deficit in supplies,” Nchula said.

He said there is need to match what happens in the office with what takes place on the ground because some of the policies formulated take as long as 10 years to be implemented or are soon forgotten altogether.

XINHUA