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Duty free bloc lifts value of Comesa trade to Sh420bn

The Nation, Nairobi

Duty Free Bloc Lifts Value of Comesa Trade to Sh420bn

Nation Reporter, Nairobi

12 May 2007

Trade among the 19 Comesa member states is currently worth more than Sh420 billion.

The increase in trade is partly attributed to the establishment of the Comesa Free Trade Area established in the year 2000 and currently has a membership of 13 countries.

According to the Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) secretariat the total Comesa trade had risen from Sh211 billion in 2000 to approximately Sh420 billion in 2005. "Intra-Comesa exports including re-exports rose from Sh115 billion in 2000 to over Sh210 billion in 2005. Speaking at the 11th meeting of the Comesa Ministers for Justice and Attorneys General held at the Grand Regency Hotel on Thursday, the organisation’s secretary general, Erastus Mwencha, said the establishment of a customs union next year would increase trade.

The organisation received Sh602 million in 2006 to implement public procurement reforms over a four year period.

The on-going meeting will, among other things, discuss Comesa competition policy and the facilitation of movement of persons between member states. The secretary general, however, briefed participants that two key legal instruments on the customs bond agreement and the protocol for establishment of the Comesa fund had already come into force.

Draft agreement

The secretary general said the draft investment agreement for the organisation’s common investment area, which the attorneys general committee referred back to the organisation’s trade and investment experts for changes had been completed. Mr Mwencha however, said the organisation’s experts on trade had requested for more time to complete the draft regulations for establishing a regional framework for trade in services among member states.

The secretary general added that trade in services had become a major sector that had potential contribute to the growth of economies if effectively addressed.

Mr Mwencha said the framework for trade in services was also intended to address challenges the states faced in tackling multi-lateral negotiations. "The position member states have taken in the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations between the European Union, and the countries of Eastern and Southern Africa is that we need to develop capacity of our people to comprehend and, take advantage of the opportunities offered in trade in services," the secretary general told the meeting.

Attorney General Amos Wako said Comesa had made impressive achievements in the establishment of critical institutions to aide its operations. They include the PTA Re-insurance Company, the clearing house, the PTA Bank, African Trade Insurance Agency and the Leather and Leather Products Institute.