Politics and policy
Ethiopia invites Kenya for exports dialogue
Posted Friday, July 1 2011 at 00:00
Ethiopia Thursday softened its stand over a dispute with Kenya over a list of products that would be covered under a special trade regime of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“We are prepared to listen to what Kenya has in mind over the list of products and we are hopeful to reach an agreement,” Fikru Tadesse Teferi, Ethiopia’s head of delegation said on the sidelines of the two-day talks mediated by the Comesa secretariat.
Kenya and Ethiopia have tussled over a list of products to be covered under the Comesa Simplified Trade Regime (STR) that seeks to ease the flow of products in the region.
Under the scheme, traders would be granted simplified certificates of origin to enable them enjoy duty and quota free access as long as their goods appear on a list of agreed products.
The certificates would be filled in by traders at designated border posts and stamped by customs officials upon verification.
For purposes of health and safety, those carrying chemicals, agricultural produce, plant and animal products would, however, have to report to offices of the ministries of Health, Environment and Agriculture for clearance.
But only small-scale border traders with consignments valued at $500 or less will be eligible to use these simplified certificates of origin.
Traders handling larger consignments who wish to benefit from duty-free access will be required to use the normal Comesa certificate of origin.
But even with these potential gains, the programme has failed to kick-off between Ethiopia and Kenya amid concerns by the former that the arrangement could injure some of its sensitive sectors.
Kenya in 2010 filed an official complaint with Comesa and requested for mediation to help unlock the stalemate.
And Thursday, Comesa kicked-off talks in Nairobi with a call for a speedy resolution on the matter.
“Our main objective is to see Ethiopia and Kenya agree on a common list of products under the STR,” Dr Chungu Mwila, Comesa’s head of investment, told delegates from the two countries.
“Let the list of products be agreed on an implemented immediately probably by August. We don’t want to wait until January 2012…it will be too late,”
Kenya’s Trade PS Abdulrazaq Ali said the country was keen to resolve the stand-off to spur trade with Ethiopia.
“It is important to ensure that we exhaust the products of interest to all our traders as experience in borders where STR is being implemented has shown that the product range has been limited,” he said.