Thursday, September 4, 2008

COMESA, EAC to harmonise external tariffs

By David Muwanga, 3rd September, 2008

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) are to harmonise the common external tariffs, a top trade ministry official said this week. 

The common external tariffs are charged by a customs union, common market or economic union impose on non members. 

“We carried out a study that indicated that there is a very big difference of over 2,500 tariff lines between the COMESA and EAC customs tariff classification,” said Silver Ojakol, the acting commissioner for external trade. 

He explained that this required harmonising the common external tariffs for both organisations. 

This, he said, was being worked on by experts from both institutions. 

Ojakol, however, described the exercise as “a very difficult one. 

“It’s going to be slow and at the end, it will require political decision-making,” he said on Tuesday in Kampala. 

He attributed the difficulty to the different economic orientation of the COMESA and the EAC member states. 

“For example, Uganda is promoting rice growing and it is protected with a 75% common external tariff, but countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi do not charge taxes on rice imports. 

“These are some of the tussles the experts will have to go through,” he explained.