Non-tariff barriers remain the toughest headache for Comesa member states, and must be handled to clear way for free trade in Africa.
Comesa Secretary general Chilese Mpundu Kapwepwe said there are also a number of sensitive products which member countries would not prefer to have tariffs removed, hampering the process to smooth harmonization of trade laws.
“Once the restrictive barriers are harmonized, it will increase intra-trade among member countries,” she said on the sidelines of the heads of customs sub-committee meeting which ends today.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area which should ideally harmonise the various trade groupings, has so far been ratified by 22 of the 26 member states of Comesa, East African Community and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The tripartite FTA brings together a population of 700 million people with an estimated Gross Domestic product of well over $1.4 trillion (Sh 140.9 trillion).
It is looking to leverage on working recommendations for digital trade to see progress in the TFTA and the whole Comesa region.
Identification, removal and monitoring of Non-Tariff Barriers to trade by the Member States in the Tripartite Community is one of the priority areas for policy harmonisation and coordination under the Tripartite framework.
The two-day meeting is part of efforts for the 22 member states to give guidance and coordinate regional and national customs procedures and specifically customs related issues. The medium term strategic plan is focused on improving customs co-operation and trade facilitation to simplify and enhance automated and digitalized customs systems.
Among other plans is to improve customs controls and compliance, enhancing human and institutional capacity building and strengthening partnerships.