The East African Community Legislative Assembly recently passed a binding legislation to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade among East African Community partner states.
Known as the East African Community Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers Act, 2015, the law is likely to contribute to increased intra-EAC trade once ratified nationally by each of the five states — Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. NTBs are partly to blame for the still limited intra-EAC trade, estimated at 13 per cent in 2013.
NTBs often limit market access, changing the quantities of goods traded, or increasing the prices of goods. They come in various forms such as restrictive sanitary and environmental protection measures, import or export restrictions, price controls, arbitrary application of rules of origin and other trade-restrictive measures.
Although there are no quantitative studies on the impact of NTBs in the region, the most recent Business Climate Index Survey in 2011 by the East African Business Council showed that businesses feel that NTBs have continued unabated in the EAC. Perhaps even worse, the general public seems to lack awareness of NTBs and their negative impact on their economic circumstances.
The importance of the Act cannot be overstated. It provides the business community the opportunity to report NTBs and see to their final resolution through the formal channels of the EAC Secretariat, with a clearly defined elimination framework.
Before that, businesses could report NTBs to their respective national monitoring committee (NMC), who would in turn report them during the regional forums of NMCs, usually held on a quarterly basis, sometimes after longer intervals.
EAC Act on non-tariff barriers a boon to regional trade. (2015, May 16). Retrieved from East African Online Newspaper