EAC policy experts float trade boosting inputs

POLICY experts from the East African Community (EAC) member countries have earmarked important inputs regarding priority areas of focus for the private sector to drive trade in the region.

Focal points include the need to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB), finalise the Comprehensive EAC CET Review, and lower the cost of telecommunications and liberalisation of the EAC Air Transport services.

East African Business Council (EABC) Executive Director Peter Mathuki said the mentioned areas are among the priority advocacy issues in order to promote an enabling business environment in the EAC.

The EABC Technical Advocacy Coordination Team (TACT) is composed of policy experts from EABC National Focal Points (NFPs), Regional and Sectoral Association.

“Being composed of policy experts from the private sector associations in the region, this meeting is well suited to share private sector perceptions, deliberate and review on how the region is fairing on stages on EAC integration Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and Political Federation,” said Mr Mathuki, in his opening remarks during the meeting.

He urged the policy experts to look at how the private sector can effectively contribute to the implementation of the Monetary Union.

“For the EAC Political Federation to take place, all other stages of the EAC integration process should be properly and fully implemented and EABC as the voice of the private sector in East Africa, should seize the opportunity of having an EAC Integration as people-centered and market driven,” he said.

The EABC as a partner of the EAC, the director said, was determined to input into the EAC process through evidence-based advocacy.

There was an emphasis on the need for Tanzania and Burundi to join the One Area Network to reduce telecommunication costs for both East Africans and businesspeople.

“The EABC in collaboration with its National Focal Points, is committed to taking the lead and partner with key institutions to advocate on the identified priorities in a bid to boost intra and extra EAC trade and increase cross-border and foreign direct investments,” said Mr Mathuki.

The body of experts meets annually with support from the Federation of German Industries (BDI), to review existing EABC Policy Advocacy Agenda, Policy Actions for the Year and formulates the next year’s Policy Advocacy Agenda.

The meeting deliberations highlight that African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) brings a larger continental market of approximately 1.2 billion people an opportunity to sell goods and services made in East Africa.

The EAC private sector should be at the forefront of giving inputs into negotiations of the AfCFTA and COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA to fully utilise the opportunities that come along with the agreements.

The EABC Trade and Policy Advisor, Mr Adrian Njau, noted that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to benefit the private sector through reduction of transaction costs by cutting red tape, improving transparency, simplifying and streamlining customs procedures for export, import and transit businesses.

The policy experts also prioritised combating illicit trade in the region, cotton textile and apparels industry, transport and logistics and the harmonisation of standards in the region.

Also on the cards is the finalisation of Standardisation, Accreditation and Conformity Assessment (SACA) Bill 2015. The Bill is crucial to enhancing the formulation of regional technical regulations framework and easing Mutual Recognition of Standards.

The experts also underscored the importance of engaging in the formulation and negotiations of the Rules of Origin for AfCFTA and COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA.

Among key advocacy success stories of EABC this year are the adoption of 10 per cent import duty on sugar for industrial use that is an important raw material used by manufacturers; adoption of CET Proposals on iron and steel and paper and paper products by EAC partner states to protect the industries from cheap imports.

Another success is harmonisation of standards to facilitate intra-EAC trade, harmonisation of vehicle load control in EAC, positive progress in the implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA); positive progress on the movement of services and service suppliers and liberalisation of trade and services in EAC whereby the bloc is drafting regulations on movement of services and service suppliers.

Source: Daily News