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Kenya wants COMESA to resolve trade row

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) Secretariat has been urged to arbitrate between Kenya and Ethiopia and enable them come up with a list of products that can be traded across the two countries’ common borders.

The government says a quick resolution of the issue would go a long way in removing the barriers faced by informal traders and increase trade volumes between the two countries.

Trade Permanent Secretary Abdulrazaq Ali complained that Ethiopia did not attend the last sub regional meeting on COMESA Simplified Trade Regime held in Nairobi in October last year which made it hard for the two parties to agree on a common list.

“We therefore wish to appeal to the COMESA Secretariat to look into the matter with a view of convening a bilateral meeting to discuss and agree on the list of traded products to be covered,” Eng Ali said.

About 10 COMESA member countries entered into discussions last year on how they should implement the trade facilitation program which was also considered as an avenue that would reduce the smuggling of goods across borders.

The PS however pointed out that limited awareness among the small traders was slowing the execution of the initiative which is particularly targeted at those consignments worth less than Sh40,000 ($500).

“For the simplified regime to be effectively implemented it is important to undertake intensive publicity and I believe the project will work with the member states and the already established Cross Border Trade Associations to upscale publicity,” Eng Ali proposed.

Of the 10 partner states that are involved in the program, only three have set up Trade Information Desks to facilitate access of information at the border posts, which he regretted was impeding growth within the bloc.

“I therefore wish to urge the identified experts to work in close collaboration with the National Focal Points with a view to fast tracking the planned activities for the benefit of all cross border traders in the participating member states,” he further appealed.

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Some progress has however been achieved in trying to improve agricultural trade, especially amongst the small scale traders in order to improve food security within the region.

To achieve a freer flow of agricultural produce and other tradable products, Eng Ali underscored the importance of strengthening organisations that serve the small traders as well as the provision of training to them and government officials who manage the borders.

He said: “We firmly believe that this will be achieved by partly building up Cross Border Trade Associations of small traders and undertaking capacity building for the trade facilitators,” a move that would also greatly reduce the price differential between surplus and deficit areas.

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