Comesa May Miss Deadline for Free Duty Trade

Speaking at the opening of the 25th Trade and Customs committee of COMESA in Harare, Ngwenya said member countries of COMESA should be prepared to make ‘hard’ political decisions in-order for the Union to achieve its objective of creating a customs union with same tariff charges.

His statement comes soon after the US Secretary of State said African countries were not doing much to increase trade among themselves, something that was hurting their economies.

“The fact that Member States have recorded achievements should not result in complacency because as countries move into deeper integration, hard political and economic decisions are required. This is because deeper integration entails shared sovereignty, or what some analysts prefer to describe as loss of sovereignty,” Ngwenya said.

“On the issue of tariff alignment, I invite the committee to note that to date very few member states have submitted their tariff alignment schedules,” Ngwenya said.

COMESA, a trade body of 19 countries across the African continent launched a Customs Union in June 2009 in the resort town of Victoria Falls where the Heads of State agreed on a three year transitional period to fully implement the Customs Union.

“”The meeting will recall that the COMESA CET(Common External Tarriff) is 0 % for capital goods and raw materials respectively: 10 % for intermediate products and 25 % for finished products.The meeting will further recall that the Authority decided that the process of tariff alignment will be done by 2012,”Ngwenya said.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Michael Bimha called on the meeting to aim to ‘resolve all outstanding issues’ that have been hindering the progress of the common Customs Union.

“I call upon the committee to critically monitor and evaluate the progress made to date in implementing some key areas of the Customs Union road map. There is need for a comprehensive programme and timetable for us to resolve all outstanding issues,” Bimha said.

The 25th Trade and Customs Union which opened today will end on Thursday, June 17, 2010.