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Comesa trade tops $7.8 billion as FTA membership reaches 13

The East African (Nairobi)

January 9, 2007

Comesa Trade Tops $7.8 Billion As FTA Membership Reaches 13

By Michael Mugwang’a, Special Correspondent

Business among Comesa countries has doubled in the past two years, and currently stands at more than $7.8 billion.

And the number of countries that have joined the club’s Free Trade Area (FTA) has grown to 13, with others waiting on the sidelines.

A ministerial meeting for Comesa member countries held in Nairobi last week noted that the FTA has contributed significantly to expanding business and cross-border investments among the countries.

The meeting, attended by trade ministers and their representatives from seven countries, also announced plans to launch a Customs Union in the next two years.

But the ministers, members of the Ministerial Task Force, said that, in order to ensure that the Union is launched on schedule, member countries need to put in place key implementation issues. The issues include agreeing on a common list of products, harmonising exemption and other duty relief measures and a national schedule for adjustment of national tariffs to match bands in the common external tariffs on raw materials and capital goods.

The member countries are also expected to develop budgetary measures to cut down the revenue gaps arising from the implementation of the common external tariff rates and submit implementation plans for the removal of non- tariff barriers.

To further expand the int-ra Comesa trade, member countries were asked to implement the provisions of an earlier agreement on the issuance of visas.

Speaking after the meeting, Kenya’s Trade and Industry Minister Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, who chaired the meeting, said Kenya had benefited greatly from trade within the Comesa region.

He said the trading bloc accounted for over 49 per cent of the country’s export business.

Uganda, he said, took 50 per cent of the export trade.

On Kenya’s strained relations with Egypt, Dr Kituyi said mechanisms had been put in place to iron out the "few complaints" between the two countries.

"In every business between countries, there are bound to arise a few complaints among the parties, and Kenya and Egypt have put in place a bilateral mechanism to sort out any of that," said Dr Kituyi.

Among the trade ministers at the meeting were those from Djibouti, Egypt, Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Kenya.