The East African Community (EAC) is expected to begin a study on the planned establishment of a regional customs authority, a move that will see all the five partner states collect customs duties jointly.
Speaking to Business Times on Monday, Monique Mukaruliza, the Minister in charge of EAC Affairs said that upcoming council of ministers in March, will set the timeframe for the Secretariat to deploy the team of experts to conduct the study.
“During their December (2010) summit, the Heads of State agreed that a study must be done by the Secretariat to look at the modalities of implementing a regional customs authority,” Mukaruliza said.
The study, she said, will make a thorough analysis on the possibilities of setting up the regional customs authority specifically including its operation, tax collection and revenue sharing.
“The team will comprise of experts from customs, fiscal policy and trade from the five partner states. The report from the study is expected to be submitted in December (this year),” Mukaruliza underscored that establishment of the customs authority will largely depend the outcome of the study.
“Either we shall establish an authority with a mechanism for sharing the revenue or we shall have customs officials from the different partner states at the border posts handling revenue for their respective countries,” she observed.
According to the Minister, following the progressive implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol and Custom’s Union, what remains is putting in place infrastructure to enhance customs operations.
In a parallel interview, Robert Ssali, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of EAC Affairs observed that while progress has been made, there are still challenges that limit the successful implementation of bothlegislations.
“Not all countries have harmonised their laws and policies to align with the Common Market protocol,” he said.
He also pointed out existence of Non- Tariff barriers (NTBs) such as roadblocks, corruption, and customs delays that continue to limit trade in the region.
Last year , the region commenced talks on harmonising the EAC custom procedures, a process that could see the tax bodies issue cards to importers who comply with the entire customs rules, that will exempt them from unnecessary checking, in essence saving time and reducing delays that characterises the EAC custom stations.
For a fully fledged Customs Union and Common Market, there should be free circulation of goods, common external tariff, and joint collection of customs duties, a harmonised trade framework and removal of internal customs borders.
Rwanda has been implementing the EAC Customs Union Protocol since July 2009 while the EAC Common Market Protocol was launched last year.