Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Comesa to simplify rules with a new simplified trade regime (STR)

Regional trade ministers hope to tap $7.5 billion in new business by rolling out simplified rules to help small-scale cross-border traders maximise on the benefits of integrated market systems.

Though informal traders are estimated to account for 50 per cent of the annual $15 billion trade within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), their potential has not been fully exploited over the years due to complicated customs and certification procedures.

Small-scale traders have often been denied duty and quota free access for their goods even when they are eligible for it.

To correct this anomaly, trade ministers from the 19-member Comesa bloc will on Thursday endorse provisions for a new simplified trade regime(STR) focused on customs and rules of origin.

“Kenya will endorse the implementation of the STR especially because it is in line with our trade liberalisation policy,” trade minister Amos Kimunya said in a speech read on his behalf by Trade PS Abdirazaq Ali during the opening of a preparatory meeting of regional officials in Nairobi. Kenya will host the signing of the STR pact during which time the member states are expected to agree on an implementation calendar. Comesa deputy secretary-general in charge of programmes, Stephen Karangizi, said small-scale traders had failed to reap the benefits of the Comesa customs union and free trade area due to stringent documentation requirements.