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SADC and Comesa move closer on trade deals

The Namibian, Windhoek

SADC and Comesa Move Closer on Trade Deals

31 May 2007

Windhoek. Three African trade blocs from southern and East Africa are moving closer to align and harmonise trade rules for increased integration, a conference resolved on Monday.

The fifth meeting of the Joint Task Force (JTF) was held in Zanzibar and was attended by delegates of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Topics discussed were a joint approach to implement regional telecommunications networks based on the Comesa Comtel Project, the SADC Regional Information Infrastructure (SRII) Project as well as a harmonised approach to the implementation of the Nepad Broadband East African Submarine Cable (EASSY), which will facilitate connectivity with North Africa, the Oceanic Islands and the rest of the world.

The meeting reviewed progress made with harmonisation of customs and trade co-operation, harmonised customs declaration documents, time frames to eliminate customs and excise tariffs on goods and a common trade policy with regard to the African Union and the African Economic Community (AEC).

According to Remmy Makumbe, SADC public relations officer, the harmonisation of various customs and trade instruments and their standardisation was discussed.

"Regarding infrastructure, the meeting noted that significant process had been made with development of joint multilateral instruments in the road and the air transport sectors, in particular a consolidated satellite-based upper air space control centre for the three sub-regions," Makumbe said in a statement.

Progress with regard to harmonisation of road user charges, third-party insurance, multilateral road transport agreements as well as vehicle dimensions and specifications were also discussed.

"The meeting also elaborated energy security, as in all the regions as the forecast energy demand surpasses energy supply, making the continent unattractive to investment and increasing the cost of doing business," said in the statement.

The three trading blocs decided to accelerate the implementation inter-connector projects in all the sub-regions under the auspices of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and East African Power Pool.

The harmonisation and finalisation of power supply master plans will also receive more attention, given the overlapping membership of the three regional economic communities.

The meeting agreed to hold a joint summit of all Comesa, EAC and SADC member states in due course to accelerate trade, customs and infrastructure development.

Comesa announced the establishment of common external tariffs last week and will declare a Customs Union in 2008.

SADC, of which Namibia is a member, will become a Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008 and a Customs Union in 2010.

The East African Community already declared a Customs Union in 2005.

Comesa has 20 member countries, ranging from Libya to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Namibia quit its Comesa membership in 2004, but remains a member of SADC, which has 14 member states.

The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) currently consists of five countries - Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa.

All of them are also SADC members.

Sacu membership will incorporate the remaining SADC countries by 2010.