Tanzania: MPs Ratify Entry Into WTO

THE National Assembly yesterday approved the country's full entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO), ending almost half a century of Tanzania's efforts to join the global trading group.

A protocol amending the Marrakesh agreement that establishes WTO was ratified here, bringing to 147 the total number of members out of 164 states that had signed the agreement.

Tanzania and Burundi are the only East African nations that had not fully subscribed to the pact that was domestically signed in September 1994.

The deal now allows Tanzania to benefit from 'duty free, quota free" arrangement or a waiver to minor customs charges imposed by industrial countries to developing or least developed countries.

Industry and Trade Minister Innocent Bashungwa explained that the new protocol will lower the costs of doing business globally and increase the volumes of international trade.

Released details of the protocol immediately after the house endorsement indicated that the country ought to benefit by fostering the implementation of the Blueprint for regulatory reforms to improve the business environment, easy the level of doing business and attract investors.

The document emphasises transparency and accountability and is likely to continue lowering corruption cases. "The protocol recommends freedom of transit goods. It now eliminates unfriendly barriers to transit goods within states," said Minister Bashungwa.

The new arrangement is not new from the East African Single Customs Territory that requires payment of customs duties on destination model. This means Tanzania won't need to change its custom systems.

The protocol approval considered the trade facilitation agreement that was reached in 2013 during the forum in Bali, Indonesia involving trade ministers from member states, which wanted the trade facilitation deal to be an integral part of the protocol for WTO establishment.

But, as of last month, 18 out of 164 countries, including Tanzania, had not ratified the protocol.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, Trade and Environment Chairperson Suleiman Saddiq, presenting the committee opinion, said the protocol will also allow Tanzania to enjoy the benefits of using the WTO's Dispute Settlement Mechanism in resolving trade wrangles.

"Let me assure this august house that there won't be direct repercussion for ratifying this protocol," he said.

But, he said the parliamentary committee had to go an extra mile to review the contagious clause that is likely to implicate the state and that "they are convinced" Tanzania will be safe with the protocol.

The opposition camp in the house, presenting an alternative opinion, said the initiative will easy clearance of goods and services especially at the ports.

"Section 21 of the protocol offers capacity building to member states with the view of enhancing trade relations ... this is a good initiative and as opposition, we think it will offer more opportunity and should not be left pending," said Cecil Mwambe on behalf of the shadow minister for industry and trade.

Mr Mwambe said there is absolutely no objection from the opposition on the government's plan to approve the protocol amending the Marrakesh agreement.

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