Working Papers

Trade Facilitation in the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area

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21 Sep 2011

Author(s): Mark Pearson

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite was created in 2006 to assist in the process of harmonising programmes and policies within and between the three Regional Economic Communities of COMESA, EAC and SADC and to advance the establishment of the African Economic Community. The three main pillars of the Tripartite strategy, as contained in the Vision and Strategy document that was endorsed at the second Tripartite Summit in June 2011 are Market Integration, Infrastructure Development and Industrial Development.

In the Tripartite region the costs of transport, in particular road transport (which accounts for about 95% of the volume of cargo transported in the region), is directly related to the time taken for the journey. The typical charge for a stationary truck is between US$200 to US$400 a day. Therefore, if a truck takes 3 days to clear a border (which is not excessive in the COMESA-EAC-SADC region) the transporter will pass on an additional cost of between US$600 to US$1,200 for the cost of the truck sitting idle at the border to the importer. This will, in turn, be passed on to the importer’s client and ultimately, to the consumer.

Until the underlying causes of these high costs of transport are addressed African countries will remain high-cost producers, with no major direct investments taking place in non-mineral sectors, restricted economic growth opportunities and slow progress made in poverty alleviation. An integral part of the Tripartite Free Trade Area is the design and implementation of a programme that is aimed at improving trade and transport measures and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.

The aim of this paper is to describe the main components of the Tripartite trade facilitation and non-tariff barrier programmes and put these programmes into a regional and a multilateral context.


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