Thursday, May 27, 2010

Zimbabwe, Zambia Sign Comesa Duty-Free Accord

Zim, Zambia sign Comesa duty-free accord

Herald Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE and Zambia have signed an agreement for the immediate implementation of the Comesa Simplified Trade Regime, which would promote bilateral trade for cross-border traders and small to medium enterprises.

The agreement would enable cross-border traders and SMEs sector of the two countries to import or export goods valued below US$500 duty-free.

Zimbabwe has since engaged Malawi to strike a similar understanding in a bid to economically empower SMEs and millions of cross-border traders in the region.

This came after realisation that informal trade and trade by SMEs was very important to Comesa and provided livelihood to millions of people and also that trade occurred at company level and informal trader or SME level.

The STR also stemmed from realisation that by reducing or removing customs duties and other practices that discourage trade, Comesa countries could increase trade opportunities and reduce the cost of goods for traders.

In that regard, cross-border traders would be able to export or import several consignments without limitation in time and frequency as long as the goods in question do not exceed the US$500 allowed per consignment.

Goods that qualify for duty exemption under the STR are those from Comesa member states or made from raw materials from a Comesa member state.

Mrs Ottilia Chikosha, from the National Working Group (gender-related business programmes), said the STR would be implemented from May 31 this month.

The National Working Group is made up of relevant ministries of trade, industry and commerce as well as other authorities such as agriculture, customs, plant and animal health, immigration and informal trade representatives.

"We have signed a bilateral agreement with Zambia for the implementation of the STR and all goods imported or exported under the Comesa Simplified Certificate of Origin shall do so duty-free," said Mrs Chikosha.

She said the STR agreement with Zambia would be formally launched in Victoria Falls next week, but had a word of caution for local cross-border traders and SMEs with regard to impending external competition.

Trade regime for cross-border traders was a market access offer for both countries, but could take away the country’s export markets if poorly handled.

She urged all local cross-border traders who import from Zambia to export local products so as to maintain a grip on that export market as failure to do so could see Zambians importing the items to supply their market.

To export or import goods under the STR, traders and SMEs would have to fill in a Comesa Simplified Certificate of Origin on which they must write the exporter’s full details, reference number, country of origin, make relevant Comesa rules declarations and have the certificate signed by relevant authorities.

Goods eligible for the Comesa STR fall under broad categories such as apiculture, beverage crops, cereals, fibre crops, fish and fish products, fruit, nuts, oil seeds, poultry and poultry products, pulses and raw milk among others.

Exporters and importers under STR need to be qualified to use the regime, have all requisite travel documents, have the STR certificate of origin signed, cleared by immigration and all relevant authorities, have the goods well sorted out and have STR certificate stamped by customs. They then fill in STR documents, ensure their goods have been declared and pay for value added tax.

Advantages of the STR include simple and clear process for cross border goods, better knowledge by the trader about rights, payment of correct amount of duty, reduction in harassment of trader and seizure of goods, reduction in time and cost of clearing goods and enhance trade between countries.

The Comesa STR builds on efforts by Comesa to adopt similar trade policies and member countries include Burundi, DRC, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Sudan.

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