Expedite comprehensive review of EAC Common External Tariff, Partner States urged

 East African Community (EAC) Partner States have been called upon to expedite the comprehensive review of the EAC Common External Tariff (CET) in order to promote trade and industrialization in the region.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialization, Ms. Betty Maina, said that the failure to conclude the review of the CET, which started in 2016, was providing leeway to products from other parts of the world to flood the EAC Common Market at the region’s expense. 

Ms. Maina said that conclusion of the EAC CET would enable the region to trade more with itself in addition to promoting the growth of domestic industries in East Africa.

“We need to prioritize the regional trade and industrialization agenda by working together to conclude the comprehensive review of the CET. At the moment we have a punctured wall that allows products from outside the region to penetrate our market,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

Ms. Maina, who is also the current Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) was speaking during the Ministerial Session of the 39th SCTIFI at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

On the persistence of Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs), Ms. Maina urged Partner States to strive to address NTBs with finality while warning that the continued emergence of NTBs across the region was discouraging investors who put in their capital with the hope that they would access the entire EAC market.

She urged Partner States to desist from imposing trade barriers on one other if they hoped to attract more investment into the region.

The Cabinet Secretary said that EAC had the capacity to inspire the continent in as far as regional integration was concerned, adding that the region needs to finalize its tariff offers and schedules under the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

“The World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference is also coming up in two weeks. EAC needs to come up with a common position for WTO reforms,” said the CS.

She said that the EAC ought to synchronize its trade regimen at the regional, continental and global levels, adding that the region should provide leadership and guidance to its ambassadors at the WTO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on its priorities at the world trade governing body.

The CS observed that while Trade in Goods had been the norm within the EAC for many years, Trade in Services such as healthcare, education and other service sectors was also growing in the region, adding that the trend was making a substantial contribution in growing the regional GDP.

Ms. Maina said that the region was exhibiting great recovery in trade with most sectors remaining resilient vis-à-vis the Covid-19 pandemic.

“National programmes are helping the region to build back better in light of the pandemic. Partner States should continue working together to ensure that there are coherent strategies to drive economic recovery,” she said.

In his remarks, EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mathuki said that the situation was gradually normalising after more than 1½ of the disruption caused by the pandemic, adding that vaccination against the virus would be the game changer.

Dr. Mathuki said that while developed countries had vaccinated more than 70% of their populations, the East African region was still oscillating at 5% in as far as Covid-19 vaccinations were concerned, noting that the rate of vaccinations would determine the pace of post-pandemic recovery.

Among the items on the agenda of the 39th SCTIFI are:  

Status of implementation of the previous decisions of SCTIFI; 

Additional submissions by Partner States for the Financial Year 2020/2021; 

Report of the Sectoral Committee on Customs; 

Report of the Sectoral Committee of Trade, and; 

Report on Competition matters 

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