COMESA decries longstanding NTBs across borders

LUSAKA, December 1, 2023 – Longstanding Non-Tariff Barriers [ NTBs ] constitute 63,6 percent of total outstanding NTBs in the COMESA region, with some of these remaining unresolved for an average period of 5 -8 years with the longest being above 12 years and the shortest being 2-4 years.

The longstanding NTBs are categorised into Technical and Non-technical NTBs; costly additional taxes, import licensing numerous/complex documentation and registration procedures, and customs valuation.

Subsequently, COMESA Secretariat has facilitated bilateral and trilateral meetings to resolve NTBs amongst countries involved which include DR Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Uganda, and Zambia.

In considering the outstanding NTBs in the Time Bound matrix, Member States have raised concerns over the long periods taken by Focal Points and National Monitoring Committee to undertake internal consultations to resolve them.

In its meeting on 23 November 2023, the COMESA Council of Ministers’ meeting noted that relevant officials failed to attend to the reported NTBs promptly and that majority of the consultations were undertaken during the regional NTB meetings.

The meeting therefore urged National Monitoring Committee members to prioritise processing and resolution of the reported NTBs without necessarily having to wait to make consultations during the NTB Forum.

The Council however noted that Member States had made some progress in trying to resolve them with two resolved during the NTBs Forum and significant progress made in follow up activities to resolve the outstanding ones.

The Council urged Member States to commit to the application of either the general or the detailed Rules of Origin to grant customs exemptions stipulated in the COMESA Protocol on Rules of Origin. Further, Member States that have not established the dedicated NTBs desks to strive to do so by December 31, 2023.

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