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Online resolution of non-tariff barriers excites TradeMark

The introduction of online systems for reporting and resolving non-tariff barriers (NTBs) between Uganda and Tanzania has cut by 65 per cent, time taken to resolve NTBs in the region.

The time saver has attracted the commendation of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) at the Uganda-Tanzania Business Forum in Munyonyo, Kampala on the side-lines of the two countries’ Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) Ministerial meeting.

“I am glad to report that the last EAC Common Market score card reported a 65 percent decline in time taken to resolve NTBs in the region,” said TMEA Acting Country Director,” Ms Damali Ssali.

 “I am also delighted to report to Amb. Julius Onen (Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary) that this NTB reporting system, that was implemented by your ministry, has been recognized by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

WTO, she said, sees the system as a revolutionary tool for trade facilitation and ``will be presented at the WTO public forum in Geneva in October this year,” said Ssali.

The development is seen as a big step forward in elimination of NTBs that hinder trade between the two countries.

Supported by TMEA, the project focused on improving mechanisms for elimination of cross-border NTBs through improved reporting by the private sector and expeditious coordination by the trade ministry for remedial action.

It also involved putting in place a communication and advocacy strategy to eliminate trade hurdles and realigning national trade laws, regulations and agency structures to streamline trade.

TMEA has since partnered with EAC to implement a number of trade facilitation projects.

With respect to Tanzania and Uganda, TMEA supported the development of Mutukula One Stop Border Post which was launched by the two heads of state in Nov 2017.

Ssali said the organisation intends “to rollout our cross-border trade strategy at Mutukula to support informal, small and medium traders from Tanzania and Uganda to trade easily.”

NTBs are a major contributor to the cost of doing business in Uganda and the EAC generally.

The landlocked countries suffer the greatest loss from NTBs due to distance from the main ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

The most widespread NTBs are poor road infrastructure, delays at border crossings and lack of harmonized import and export standards and procedures.

For example some certified exports from Uganda are subjected to fresh inspection in Tanzania by its bureau of standards.

Amb Onen said failure to “resolve an NTB in 48 hours would lead to the collapse of trade.”

Ssali promised to support additional trade enhancement initiatives between Tanzania and Uganda in the areas of ICT and infrastructure.

“Work on automating of the issuance of certificates of origin in both countries is already underway and we hope to complete the exercise this financial year,” she observed.

In Tanzania, civil works on improving infrastructure in Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika have commenced and this is expected to facilitate exports to the DRC.

In Uganda, design works for the Goli Mahagi One Stop Border Post and the Ntoroko Kasenyi on Lake Albert have already commenced.

Ssali welcomed the revival of the Mwanza-Port Bell route on Lake Victoria that will provide access to inputs to industries and exports between Tanzania and Uganda.

“It is recognized world over that neighbours are natural trading partners. I therefore, take this opportunity to congratulate the two countries on the efforts taken to improve trade,” said Ssali.

Established in 2010, TMEA’s main aim is to promote economic development in all East Africa Community states by supporting trade facilitation.

Its new strategy is expected to see a reduction of barriers to trade, improved business competitiveness and take 2.6 million people out of poverty in the region.

TMEA also encourages export-led growth by supporting the production of higher value added tradable products.