PUBLISHED ON July 25th, 2014


East African Community partner states posted progress in eliminating non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the first five months of the year with the number of new barriers falling gradually, which reduced the cost of doing business and opened up more opportunities across the bloc.

But the five countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi continued to erect new barriers, frustrating the implementation of free trade in the region.

Countries are involved in long standing trade disputes that could further complicate movement of goods and services.

The latest report by the EAC Sectoral Ministers Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment said that since the beginning of this year, up to 10 NTBs have been resolved. However, nine NTBs were reported as new in the same period. Just who is erecting new barriers and what are the complaints?

It is expected that more NTBs will be resolved by the end of this year. Cumulatively, 62 NTBs out of over 100 have been eliminated by partner states since last year, the report says.

As a result, businesses could benefit from a reduction in the cost of doing business in the coming months with the lessening of NTBs — mainly weighbridges, roadblocks, poor infrastructure, unnecessary delays at border posts, and lack of harmonised import and export standards, procedures and documentation.

Last year, the EAC Secretariat reported that a total of 55 NTBs were resolved within a period of 12 months, up from 36 that were resolved in 2012. However, 24 NTBs are unresolved.

The elimination of the NTBs has been attributed to reduced or removal of the number of weighbridges and roadblocks on both the Northern and Central Corridors; reduced procedures and documentation processes at the ports of entry through the opening of One Stop Border Posts; the introduction of the single customs territory and the single electronic window at the ports.

However, despite the progress, the partner states are yet to completely eliminate NTBs. East Africa’s standing as one of the continent’s most attractive destinations for foreign investment has recently come under threat from other blocs.

The blocs are benefiting from the region’s NTBs, lengthy licensing processes and sluggish commercial dispute settlement procedures to improve their competitiveness, the World Bank said in a recent report.

Andrew Luzze, executive director at the East Africa Business Council, said the reduction in the number of NTBs in the region is a result of the commitment by all the EAC presidents in ensuring that measures are in place to reduce unnecessary delays at the border posts on the main corridors (Northern and Central) and the ports.

“This means that the presidents are appreciating the importance of cross border trade in the region as required by the Treaty,” said Mr Luzze. “NTBs are easily reported and quickly resolved because the secretariat has put in place an NTB innovation framework,” he added.

In a recent interview, Richard Sezibera, the EAC secretary general said that the issue of NTBs will always be there because in trading arrangements, there will always be disagreements and disputes and new NTBs will always emerge.

Source: The East African

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