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EAC keen on promoting intra-regional trade-Official

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The East African Community (EAC) is working overdrive to enhance market access to regional and international markets through a comprehensive export promotion strategy, a top regional customs official has said.
Kenneth Bagamuhunda, the EAC Director General for Customs and Trade, said the bloc is implementing programmes aimed at promoting and strengthening intra- and inter-regional trade, particularly the removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) which are an obstacle to trade.
He was speaking at the recently conclude three- day workshop convened by the TradeComII Programme at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. It was attended by participants from member states.
He said that the EAC had prioritized growth in its exports through value addition and capacity building for exporters to enable them know about export requirements especially in the European Union (EU).
Bagamuhunda further said mechanisms for the dissemination of applicable trade requirements and trade statistics were in place. Other measures to promote trade, he said, include the harmonization of regional standards and the implementation of the EAC Export Promotion Strategy.
He said that while key strategies and policies aimed at boosting trade exist, the biggest challenge was how to implement them.
“The elimination of tariffs is not a problem. The biggest problem is removing non-tariff barriers which keep on changing and coming up in different forms,” he said.
On the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), Mr. Bagamuhunda said now was the time to push for the full implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) bringing together EAC, COMESA and SADC.
“The TFTA is the stepping stone to the CFTA because what remains in TFTA is its implementation. The Tripartite constitutes more than 60% of the Africa’s GDP and over half of the continent’s population,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Fabio di Stefano, Head of the Infrastructure and Regional Integration Sectors at the European Union Delegation in Tanzania, said the EU’s engagements with EAC focus mainly on trade and economic growth in the region.
The official said that political goodwill from EAC leaders will be critical if the region was to become integrated economically; adding that reforms to national laws and policies would also be required for the full implementation of protocols and agreements made at the regional level.
He said some of the key drivers of regional integration in East Africa were peace and security, and infrastructure development.
The EAC Secretariat plans to develop appropriate strategies on export development and the elimination of non-tariff barriers inhibiting trade among Partner States and between Partner States and their trading partners.
The strategies address the main constraints relating to the legal, regulating and institutional requirements at both the regional and Member States levels. The efforts will help boost Partner States capacity to supply the European markets through a sound and sustainable export promotion strategy.

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