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Intra-COMESA Trade now at US $20.9 Billion

Intra-regional trade in COMESA has steadily risen from US $3 billion to US $20.9 billion since the establishment of a Free Trade Area in 2000. This however,

excludes the informal trade across the borders that currently goes largely unrecorded but which has been estimated at over 30% of formal trade.

According to the 2013 status report presented to the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee (IC) in Lusaka, Zambia (4-6 December 2014) intra-COMESA trade is still low partly due to the similar products that compete for the same market within the Member States and the existence of Non- Tariff Barriers (NTBs).. For example in 2013, intra-COMESA trade was recorded at 7% as compared to other regions such as the ASEAN that have recorded 25% intra-regional trade.

In his address while opening the IC meeting, Zambia Minister for Commerce and Industry Hon. Bob Sichinga said that focus should now be place on addressing the bottlenecks to intra-regional trade, such as NTBs, supply side constraints, border measures that affect and impact on volumes and values of intra-trade.

“It is incumbent upon all the stakeholders to address these bottlenecks to sustain the momentum thus far achieved, deepen COMESA’s integration agenda beyond the FTA, and attain a fully functional common market by 2018,” the Minister told the IC meeting which is comprised of Permanent Secretaries from Member States.

He appreciated that COMESA’s had developed draft NTB Regulations that would enable the region to address barriers related to intra-regional trade under a legal framework such as the arbitrary imposition of NTBs.

“The Annex on NTBs that also includes enforceability through the invocation of Article 171 of the Treaty is before this Committee, and the expectation is that pursuant to past Council decisions, you will now recommend the same for adoption by the Council of Ministers to facilitate its implementation,” the Minister urged the PSs.

COMESA has focused on industrialisation to address part of the supply side constraints and has subsequently put in place the Clusters Programme initiatives in the cassava, textiles and leather sectors. These clusters aim at establishing linkages between the SMEs to the particular cluster value chain; for instance, the cassava cluster links the small scale farmer to the market, through the making of industrial starch.

“Such initiatives go a long way in addressing the supply side constraints, but more importantly, increased value addition, leading to diversification of intra-regional exports,” the Minister said.

Source: COMESA

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