THE East African Community (EAC) Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) has urged the Regional Coordination Committee to review and harmonise the Covid-19 protocols.
This is in a bid to mutually recognise the certificates, with a view to ensuring the safe and smooth movement of goods and persons in the region. The SCTIFI, which met here over the weekend, noted with concern the non-recognition of Covid-19 certificates by Partner States, the unharmonised charges for Covid-19 testing and the validity of Covid-19 certificates amongst Partner States.
It further observed that notification procedures were not being followed, a situation that essentially constituted yet another Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) to trade within the region.
The SCTIFI also directed Partner States to use regional mechanisms or structures such as the EAC Standards Committee and the sectoral council itself to resolve disputes among themselves as opposed to taking unilateral interventions. The Council noted that regional members have been taking actions that have restricted trade within their respective markets and guided that all EAC Partner States comply with the notification obligations in EAC legal instruments.
The SCTIFI further recalled that Tanzania and South Sudan had waived fees on reciprocal basis as the Common Market Protocol but Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan still charged visa fees to their citizens.
Rwanda and Burundi had also waived visa fees for South Sudanese nationals but were yet to receive confirmation from South Sudan on the waiver of visa charges for their citizens, according to the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment.
The Council on the other hand directed Kenya to expedite the rollout of the Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) to facilitate trade between the Partner States by 30th October, 2021. The ministers, who deliberated at length on the elimination of NTBs, further directed the EAC Partner States to remove all discriminatory fees, levies and charges of equivalent effect.
The ministers also adopted 115 950/- ($50) as the de minimis value where customs duties shall not be collected on goods imported into the Community. De minimis value is a minimum value defined by a country required to apply customs duty and tax rates on imported goods.
On the implementation of the Summit decision on the EAC-EU Economic Partner Agreement (EAC-EU-EPA), the SCTIFI directed Partner States who were ready to implement the agreement to submit their implementation plans by 30th October, 2021 in line with the Summit decision held in February, 2021.
The 21st Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State acknowledged that not all Partner States were in a position to sign, ratify and implement the EAC-EU-EPA agreement. The SCTIFI culminated with a milestone after Tanzania and Kenya agreed to resolve 30 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that jeopardised trade between them.