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Right time for EAC intra trade

Right time for EAC intra trade

REGIONAL trade integration is a cornerstone of the East African Community (EAC) partner states’ trade policies.

This involves strengthening of public institutions and private sector organisations involved in export promotion. Being one of the most successful and fast growing regional trading blocs, EAC has a huge market.

The blocs are collections of countries within a geographical region that band together to protect themselves from non-member goods. The bloc is a free-trade zone, or near-free-trade zone created by one or more tax, tariff, and trade agreements between two or more countries.

At the 22nd Ordinary Summit of EAC, President Samia Suluhu Hassan talked of the necessity for resolving Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to increase intra-regional trade within the EAC.

The Head of State challenged the Council of Ministers to address pending issues that still stifle the growth of intra-regional trade among the seven partner states – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

NTBs refer to restrictions that result from prohibitions, conditions, or specific market requirements that make importation or exportation of products difficult and/or costly. They also include unjustified and/or improper application of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) and other Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

NTBs arise from different measures taken by governments and authorities in the form of government laws, regulations, policies, conditions, restrictions or specific requirements, and private sector business practices, or prohibitions that protect the domestic industries from foreign competition.

It is right time that the NTBs are resolved once and for all in the region, so that member countries enjoy intra-trade, with each country specialising in particular goods. Doing so will make EAC feed itself and also reduce transport costs that would otherwise be incurred if the goods in question were to be imported from abroad.

Heavy investment in these partner states could as well earn them huge income, because after satisfying internal (EAC) market, the products from the bloc can access various markets in the developed world through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which offers preferential treatment to a wide range of products originating from developing countries.

Although EAC is still considered to be most integrated regional economic bloc on the continent, the Head of State was not shy of pinpointing some of the pertinent issues facing the region, particularly the NTBs.

The President, rightly said that in spite of all the milestones, EAC is sadly still talking about resolving NTBs, with many others lurking. This is happening at a time when trading among EAC partner states is less than 50 per cent, a clear indication that the region is not doing enough in addressing the dire situation.

EAC partner states are not doing enough to nurture their customs union and common market. It has been established that the partner states are trading much more with the rest of the world than among themselves.

Such a worrying trend implies that the developed EAC policies frameworks are hinged on facilitating third parties trade with the regional economic bloc, whilst limiting the seven partner states to such opportunities.

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Author: EDITOR

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