The New Times (Kigali)

7 December 2012

East Africa: EAC Disputes Reports of Trade Barriers Increase

The East African Community (EAC) is working towards eradicating Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to accelerate trade in the region. The Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure has said.

While responding to questions at the East Africa Economists Summit in Kigali, Dr. Enos Bukuku refuted reports that, the trade barriers have increased along the Northern Corridor.

"NTB's are being reduced, not increased; we have been able to reduce roadblocks from 30 to 15. Bear with us; we are putting in much effort to see that these trade barriers are eliminated," he said.

He said the EAC has adopted NTB's regulation committees at both national and regional levels.

The two-day forum that was organised by Economist Conferences - part of The Economist Group -, attracted international business leaders and policymakers to engage in frank and open debates on the region's economic prospects.

Bukuku alongside Tanzania's Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda spoke widely about the EAC move to eliminate NTB's at the session dubbed "Removing trade barriers: challenging government to do better."

With a population of 140 million, the EAC is still expanding and aims to accommodate South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo into a wider market.

"Quite a number of things have been improved, we can't say that we can eliminate these NTBs in one day.

It is work in progress and much is being done to eliminate these barriers to reach a stage when there will be no roadblocks anymore," Bukuku emphasised.

He said that EAC should get more credit, because there is no other trade bloc working on customs, monetary union or political federation simultaneously.

The EAC Partner States agreed to remove roadblocks and replace them with electronic cargo tracking systems and police patrols by December 2012.

Among the key decisions taken at the NTB's dedicated session held in Nairobi a couple of months back, transit vehicles will be weighed twice from the Port of entry and Port of exit for Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi while the United Republic of Tanzania awaits a study on the establishment of the weighbridges.

The summit, held under the theme, "Infrastructure and Growth: Government and Business in Dialogue", tackled trade barriers; youth and employment; and opportunities in ICT, technology, mining, transport and agriculture.

Tanzania's Prime Minister Pinda said that NTBs were still a challenge to the region's growth despite efforts to eliminate them.

"We have NTBs monitory committee in Tanzania and we are working closely with other committees from partner countries and I am quite sure these trade barriers are going to be eliminated soon," he noted.

Pinda stated that scaling up infrastructure development most especially roads construction programmes in the EAC, will significantly increase trade in the region and attract credible investors.

He said that Tanzania has embarked on a campaign to construct 23,000km of roads that connects the country to partner countries in the EAC bloc.

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