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Mistrust threatens EAC pact, says Nalo

NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 28 – The Ministry of East African Community is raising concern over the increase of tariff barriers that threaten the implementation of the Common Market Protocol.

The ministry argues that partner states were reading from different scripts and giving varied interpretations of tariffs that are frustrating trade within the region.

Ministry Permanent Secretary David Nalo says this was creating anxiety and suspicion amongst member states, which could derail the Common Market Protocol.

"Non-tariff measures which were once coming down especially since 2005, are on the increase once again. Every partner state has a complaint against each other," Mr Nalo said.

He said the suspicion amongst the five East African countries was not healthy arguing it could stifle the progress of the Common Market.

"Rwanda is complaining of insecurity along the northern corridor; Kenya is complaining about truckers being arrested in Burundi. No single partner state is exempt from these types of complaints," he said.

Most of the hiccups include subjective arrests of traders and restrictions that impede the smooth flow of goods.

According to the PS, most of the problems were arising from border points with various government departments such as customs in the way they apply the non-tariff barriers.

"The perpetrators of these are none other than ourselves because who mounts the road blocks and is engaged in the application of the standardisation of products?" he posed.

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He said there needed to be greater coordination between government departments at the border points to ensure smooth flow of trade.

A number of states have been slow in removing tariff barriers as they seek to protect their markets. One major issue that is raising fears in the EAC is the collection of revenue.

There is a push to have duties for imported goods in the region paid at the port of entry.

EAC members however lack institutional structures that can carry out major trade decisions on behalf of each state thus jeopardising the full implementation of a Common Market.

The PS said it was high time the region comes up with a one-stop border point system that would ensure goods move freely within the region.

However, areas such as immigration and customs remain a major hindrance, with the PS saying partner states would have to come up with a plan to develop the system.

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