Arusha — THE East Africa Community (EAC) private sector has proposed new tariff offers for African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) negotiations.
A two-day meeting, organised in Nairobi jointly by the East African Business Council (EABC), the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), International Trade Centre (ITC) and TradeMark East Africa, convened over 40 industry and business experts from the region to deliberate on the liberalisation of goods and services to reposition the EAC region in light of AfCFTA.
A statement released by EABC said 44 member states of the African Union signed the Framework Agreement establishing AfCFTA in March 2018 in Kigali Rwanda.
The same Summit adopted the protocol on Trade in Goods, Services and Rules & Procedures on Dispute Settlement.
The Chief Guest, Mr Nicholas Nesbitt, who is the EABC chairman in his remarks urged the EAC partner states to address competitiveness impediments facing East African businesses such as the high cost of transport, logistics, energy and access to finance to harness the benefits brought by AfCFTA.
"The region should embark on Regional V alue Addition through manufacturing to harness opportunities provided by the AfCFTA Market. AfCFTA can support East African plants to run at full capacity by expanding their markets to other African countries," Mr Nesbitt was quoted as saying.
He urged the EAC partner states to address non-tariff barriers (NTBs) through the development of an effective framework/mechanism at a continental level with punitive measures for member countries, who failed to comply with stipulated provisions to eliminate NTBs.
Speaking at the opening session, EABC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Mathuki said Africa was positioning to negotiate as one bloc at global level.
He added that the East African private sector needed to come up with a common position on AfCFTA negotiations and EABC was keen on spearheading and taking a central position in AfCFTA conversation.
"Today's consultative workshop is a follow-up of a EABC-UNECA regional workshop on AfCFTA in April 2019, which is recommended for the involvement of the EAC private sector in the negotiation process of AfCFTA instruments, understanding the offers to ensure regional private sector interests are considered," said Mr Mathuki.
He said the workshop would enlighten on business implications for the AfCFTA protocol on trade in goods and services, free movement of persons and how the EAC private sector was positioning itself to seize the benefits arising from the continental free trade area.
In her remarks Ms Emily Ndoria, Principal Trade Officer of the EAC representing the EAC Secretary General said the EAC had been instrumental in the development of AfCFTA and follows up in the negotiations of trade in goods and services.