TANZANIA exporters and importers may have access to more regional and global markets through use of the National Enquiry Point (NEP) that provide real time information on international markets standards.
Lack of awareness on the differences between technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures adopted by various countries has at most time resulted into the creation of obstacles among importers and exporters.
And if products produced by Tanzanian enterprises are to gain global appeal, it is crucial that they meet international markets standards thus creating the need to have a special desk to handle and coordinate exporters and importers.
Therefore, NEP became important platform in handling information on technical regulations and standards adopted or proposed to be adopted and conformity assessment procedures adopted or proposed to be adopted.
The centre uses the resources available in the library to answer enquiries from exporters and importers in Tanzania and abroad.
An official with NEP, Bahati Samillani, said through NEP Tanzanian enterprises can now access information from the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) on the most up to date technical regulations and standards notified by member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“Tanzania signed agreement with the WTO that led to increased transparency as well as directing the member to inform other members on the guidelines aimed at improving easiness of doing business,” he said.
The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) monthly economic review for February shows that the value of exports of goods and services increased to 9,915.6 million US dollars in year ending January 2020 compared with 8,262.7 million US dollars recorded in corresponding period of 2019 attributed by increase in both value of good exports and service receipts.
The value of imports increased to 10,785.4 million US dollars in the year ending January 2020 from 10,420.5 million US dollars in the corresponding period in 2019, driven by goods imports.
The NEP is located within the TBS Information Centre which is the collection of national, foreign, regional and international standards, technical regulations and standardization related information and is open for the public from Monday to Friday.
The agreement requires WTO members to establish NEP as a way of mitigating problems business enterprises face in obtaining information on technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures applicable to their products in international markets.
According to Samillani, the mandate to establish the special desk is under the Ministry of Industry and Trade as an entity recognised by WTO.
But since the ministry does not manage it directly, the obligation was given to TBS. Therefore, TBS has already established special desk as the NEP tasked with the handling of business enquiries, adding that their duty is to ensure that all the guidelines contribute to easiness of doing business.
The Enquiry Point enables enterprises to find out the requirements for access to markets of WTO members so that they can make preparations to comply with the requirements.
The agreement aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards and testing, inspection and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
The agreement provides for a notification procedure which requires all WTO members to inform other members, through the WTO secretariat of their proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures.
This procedure allows business enterprises in WTO member states to become acquainted with technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures proposed by members before they are implemented.
“For example, when we export honey to Arab countries and that there are new guidelines that may have adverse effect in the business, they give their views and send them to NEP in the country concerned,” he said noting that they encourage stakeholders to make follow-up on the information regarding the guidelines through the electronic means or go directly to NEP.
The centre has been using various exhibition platforms like Southern African Development Community (SADC) to provide awareness on NEP and how it can support businesses.
Currently, the number of business people seeking information from NEP is progressively increasing which is an indication that the centre is providing support to business growth.
“We are continually encouraging traders to abide to the procedures and guidelines so that their goods meet the required standards of the country for which they are exporting,” he noted.
For example, through NEP we supported traders who wanted to export their goods to South Africa and South Sudan get necessary information on the guidelines to do business on these countries.
Concerning how the centre helps importers, Samillani said that most of them seek information from NEP and get immediate help on guidelines on how to conduct smooth flow of business.
He explained that before publishing the guidelines in the government gazette by the minister of industry and trade, other members of WTO should be informed in a period of 60 days to give their views if any.
“We are also making our guidelines and inform the WTO and later get feedback from the member countries if any and give them to our experts who prepared the guidelines,” he said.