EAC closer to finalise tariff offer with Africa trade bloc

Thursday November 18 2021
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EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki. PHOTO | FILE

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. The East African Community (EAC) is set to finalise its tariff offer with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pact.

The bloc’s tariff offer currently stands at 85 percent against AfCFTA’s modalities of 90 percent.

A meeting of trade experts from the six EAC partner states will meet on December 15 to finalize the region’s tariff offer, the Secretariat said yesterday.

A just-concluded sectoral council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment has also directed to revise the EAC Schedule of Specific Commitments on Trade in Services.

The organ has also been tasked to review the Trade in services offers made by State and Non-State Parties for the AfCFTA.

Further, the EAC Secretariat was directed to undertake an assessment of the number of additional tariff lines that have been moved by each Partner State from the various categories.

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Speaking during the meeting held at the EAC headquarters, EAC secretary general, Peter Mathuki said that a lot needs to be done to kick off trading under the agreement.

“Regional Economic Communities are major building blocks in the realisation of the AfCFTA.

“EAC is keen on implementing policies, decisions, and directives, to ease trading under the agreement set to widen integration and increase Intra-Africa trade,” he pointed out.

African countries began officially trading under the AfCFTA) on Jan 1 this year in a pact connecting 1.3 billion people across Africa with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion.

Under the agreement establishing the AfCFTA, tariffs on 90 percent of tariff lines are expected to be eliminated over a period of five years for developing countries, while it is expected to take 10 years for least developed countries (LDCs).

The move gives the business community in the region a possibility of increasing economies of scale through access to cheaper raw materials and intermediate inputs.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialisation, Ms. Betty Maina - who is also the current chair of the Sectoral meeting - decried the persistence of Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs) in the region.

“NTBs negate the vision of a common market and are a threat to both local and foreign investment in the region,” she said.

Ms Maina called for continuous engagements among Partner States through existing Regional and bilateral mechanisms for NTB resolution.

The Council was informed that as at October 2021, 12 NTBs remained at different levels of resolution, while 232 NTBs have been cumulatively resolved since 2007.