Trade within East Africa is still facing the burden of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) despite promises from EAC member countries to ensure easy flow of goods across the borders.
Non Tariff Barriers have had a huge impact on Intra-EAC trade which has remained low at $4.5 billion accounting for only 12% to 13% of trade in East Africa with member states preferring to trade with COMESA, SADC or other neighbouring countries outside the Community.
Kassim Omar, National Chairman Uganda Clearing Industry and Forwarding Association (UCIFA) and also Vice Chair of the National Monitoring Committee on NTBs was giving an update at a media workshop last week.
“You can’t say that NTBs can be eliminated 100%. Some NTBs are anchored in the laws, but implemented wrongly. Anything that acts as obstacle to doing business is interpreted as an NTB, NTBs have to be defined in the right manner,” Omar said.
However there have been some successes, including the removal of road blocks on highways, improved infrastructure, open border posts, and incorporation of ICT and participation of private sector in EAC negotiations.
To register further success in removal of NTBs, Omar, suggests more harmonization of regulations and policies in the EAC.
He adds that the region fast tracks the implementation of the Common Market protocol and the Customs Union Protocol under the single custom territory.
“These are the things that increase the cost of doing business. All Partner States should eliminate impediments that restrict movement of goods,” Agaba said.
Sam Wataasa, the Lead Advisor, NRSE-NTBs Project said there are six categories of NTBs including police roadblocks, immigration, quality inspection, road transit, business registration and licensing processes and customs and administration procedures.
These if not well managed can turn out to be NTBs which can stagnate regional trade,
The challenge leading to continued existence of NTBS in the region are attributed to difficulties in identifying and classifying NTBS, administrative and institutional challenges, different legal and regulatory laws and bad infrastructural pillars
Omar revealed that government participation in trade, restrictive trade practices, prohibitive customs practices and procedures, distribution constraints and lack of proper infrastructural constraints are some of the existing NTBS that need to be addressed to enable smooth trading in the region.
The reasons for existence of NTBs, according to Omar include governments trying to protect their domestic industries and consumers by not allowing similar products from other countries to enter and compete with domestic products.
Governments also knowingly refuse to remove NTBs so as to safeguard measures against fiscal revenue loses, health, safety and security of human beings, animals and plants, environment and national Security.
Source: East African Business Week
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