THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states have adopted the Customs Union, after approval of recommendations of an inter-ministerial task force report.
COMESA Secretary General Erastus Mwencha said the 23rd meeting of the Council of Ministers endorsed the formation of the COMESA Custom Union.
According to the Kenya Times obtained by the Mail, Mr Mwencha disclosed that the Council of Ministers also adopted all the ministerial reports earlier tabled before the intergovernmental meeting.
Mr Mwencha said among the reports adopted include, the ministerial finance report which facilitated the formation of a COMESA Fund, a ministerial report on agriculture, transport and infrastructure and other crucial
He also said the report on common external tariff was also
Meanwhile, Kenya expressed optimism that the establishment of the custom union would boost the region’s trade potential and increase its global competitiveness.
Speaking during the official opening of the 23rd meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers, Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori said the individual markets when combined into a single market would be relatively strong.
He said the region would have a combined population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 400 million people and an estimated US$300 billion respectively.
Mr Awori said the block’s trade volume had increased from US$2 billion at the launch of COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2000 to over US$6 billion (Sh402b) currently.
He reiterated that the Customs Union was critical to the regionsâ€™ GDP since it would provide an indispensable base for a more prosperous future, adding that the region would now have more say on the international scene.
â€œThe long term gains of a custom union are therefore undeniable and we should consider it an opportunity rather than a threat, Mr Awori said.
He said that the trade liberalisation regime that the region had implemented over the years had been instrumental in the substantial growth in trade so far witnessed in the COMESA region.
Mr Awori noted that the COMESA Free Trade Area had been qualified as a trail of impressive achievements in trade liberalisation, a move he said is making trade easier, more efficient and less costly.
On the Custom Union which is envisaged to be launched by December 2008, the Vice-president said it was important for the region to have a Common External Tariff ( CET).
He pointed out that the tariff would be an essential instrument in pursuing negotiations with the European Union ( EU) over Economic Partnership Agreements ( EPAs) and the multilateral negotiations within the framework of the world trade organization (WTO).