Kenyan Minister of Trade Chirau Ali Mwakwere

Business24

The Ministerial Session of the EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment, agreed on the waiver last week after a government request.

The Council brings together ministers responsible for these dockets in the EAC Partner States.

Kenyan Minister of Trade Chirau Ali Mwakwere chaired the meeting, also attended by Rwandan Minister in charge of EAC affairs, Monique Mukaruliza.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Emanuel Hategeka yesterday told Business Times that the government asked for the extension of the waiver in February, after the expiry of previous allowance.

A statement released on Friday said that the Council agreed to waive tariffs on 38,000 metric tonnes of sugar, following reports that the country had not fully benefited from a previous EAC allowance to import 50,000 metric tonnes duty free, due to logistical issues.

The extended waiver will expire in August.

“The [previous] tariff waiver worked in our favour, it enabled us to tremendously import sugar in bulk and contained skyrocketing prices,” Hategeka observed. “We want to sustain the impact on sugar prices.”

It is understood that most Rwandan traders benefiting from the tariff waiver import sugar from Brazil.

Sugar shortage in the country pushed a kilo of the commodity to about Rwf1,200 last year, but the price was brought down to the current Rwf800.

The Council also directed the Secretariat to develop a strategy on sugar production, supply and distribution, citing persistent sugar shortages in the region since 2005.

Additionally, the Sectoral Council tasked the EAC Secretariat to develop an EAC Common Trade Policy and Strategy within the next financial year, which will form the framework to guide the bloc in its engagement with third parties.

Meanwhile, the ministers welcomed Turkey’s request to negotiate a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the EAC, directing the Secretariat “to respond positively” to Turkey and undertake a study which will inform the region on the cost and benefits as well as issues to include in the harmonisation with other investment and trade initiatives.

On the COMESA-EAC SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area negotiations, the meeting directed that the Secretariat to expeditiously develop an EAC negotiation position on Cluster One and Two of the Tripartite FTA negotiations on Trade in Goods.

The first cluster to be negotiated between April this year and August next year, covers the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, customs and transit related issues.

While the second cluster covers technical barriers to trade.

The meeting took note of the study reports on the attainment of the Single Customs Territory in a fully fledged Customs Union and directed the Secretariat to forward the same to Partner States for comments.

The Sectoral Council also took note of the report of the Ministerial Meeting on Non Tariff Barriers; progress made on the EAC-EU EPA negotiations; as well as the request to de-gazette Mukwano Group of Companies from the list of Ugandan companies accessing raw materials and industrial inputs duty free.

Source The New Times

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