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Kenyan traders worry over EAC tariffs

NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 16 – With 15 days to the ratification of the East African Common Market Protocol, Kenya’s business community is raising serious concerns that threaten to the success of the process.

Speaking during a Special Prime Minister’s roundtable on Wednesday, Kenya Association of Manufactures Chairman Vimal Shah said East African member States were not acting in unison in implementing common duties and custom regulations, creating an uneven trading ground.

He cited issues such as non-implementation and respect of common external tariffs, saying they were creating pressure on Kenyan businesses that wanted to expand across the region.

“The harmonisation of standards has not happened and CET (common external tariff) anomalies still exist and the list of special goods has not yet been finalised,” Mr Shah complained.

Of particular concern, he said, was the slow amendment of the relevant laws and statutes to accommodate the new economic regime.

Although most countries are at an advanced stage of passing new laws for the enactment of the protocol, there is a lot to be done to take care of other laws touching on customs and taxation.

The coming into force of the common market protocol is meant to facilitate the free movement of labour, services, capital and goods but Mr Shah has reservations of its implementation come July 1.

“We are not yet talking as one market and this is making us lose out to other markets,” he said adding that a customs union cannot function without the existence of common customs legislation and a common external tariff.

He said that while the East African Customs Union was set up with clear objectives such as promoting domestic, cross border and foreign investment, liberalising intra-regional trade in goods among other, this is yet to happen.

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Also speaking at the forum, East African Community Permanent Secretary David Nalo pointed out that the implementation of the East African Common Market Protocol would take time.

“When July 1 arrives, let us not expect that the borders will freeze and disappear and I think we must realise that we must have a schedule of implementation of the protocol,” he said.

The concerns raised by the business community caught the attention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga who before delivering his keynote address first conducted a ‘roll call’ of government departments present at the meeting.

To his dismay, there were no representatives from the Ministries of Trade, Transport and the Kenya Revenue Authority.

“If we are not adequately represented here in as far as trade is concerned then there is something amiss,” Mr Odinga said clearly sending a message to concerned Ministries and government institutions.

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