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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

WTO head says TradeMark East Africa and partners facilitate trade and drive growth in the East Africa region

The world’s top trade official praised TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and its partners for streamlining cross-border trade in the East African Community to help the private sector power economic growth in the region.

“East African potential has never been greater; East Africa is an increasingly important and vibrant player in the world economy and I encourage further deepening of regional integration to further leverage trade and growth,” Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation said.

The WTO official was speaking on a visit to Kenya and Rwanda to see some of the programmes TMEA and its partners are working on to streamline regional commerce, speed cross-border trade and overturn barriers to the free flow of goods to generate economic growth.

“In an age of global supply chains where a pair of jeans can be made in five different countries and therefore needs to cross five different borders, the thickness of borders becomes a major factor in the cost of trade”, he said.

“In this new trading environment of globalisation where tariffs have been eroded away, trade facilitation takes on more prominence. The work of TMEA with their partners on trade facilitation is exemplary of what can be achieved to reduce the thickness of borders.” Said Lamy.

Lamy was especially impressed with the work TMEA and its partners are doing to use Information Technology (IT) to track trade from port to warehouse through computerised systems that do away with reams of paperwork and make movement of goods much easier. East Africa’s transport costs are among the highest in the world and account for 40% of the cost of imports in landlocked states.

He toured the Kenya Bureau of Standards and Shippers Council of East Africa, two TMEA partners in trade facilitation. In Rwanda he visited the Electronic Single Window for trade at the Rwandan Revenue Authority and the Rwandan Bureau of Standards.

Lamy was enthused by the TMEA-backed electronic Single Window as an example of I.T. facilitating trade. It has reduced the time to clear goods by 2.5 days, generating savings to business of $8-$17 million/year and bringing Kigali that much closer to the ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.

 “The age old conundrum between promoting the speed of trade versus ensuring consumer safety of products no longer needs to be a contradiction if you can ‘ITise” customs and other trade measures,” Lamy said.

Lamy attended a forum of TMEA’s regional partners to learn about success made in streamlining trade and some of the challenges that remain towards optimising the opportunities economic integration offers.

In his remarks opening the forum, the Danish ambassador to Kenya, Geert Aagart Andersen, underscored the importance of Lamy’s visit at a time when East Africa trade and economic integration has been identified as a vital process for the region to develop and prosper.

“Integration continues to play an important role in this region and the anticipated benefits are expected to result in increased trade and wealth creation which will benefit the more than 140 million citizens”, he said.

TMEA CEO Frank Matsaert honoured to host Lamy in Kenya said: “This visit is testament to the hard work and implementation by our partners under the leadership of the East African Community. TMEA will continue to focus its efforts on increasing trade and prosperity, primarily through investing where there will be the biggest impact for East Africa’s people and private sector.”

Deputy Director General, Valentine Rugwabiza noted that there is a particular challenge for Africa to ensure that smaller firms, which make up the vast majority of the private sector in Africa, can also join in the value chains. In recognition of the important role that Aid for Trade can play in this respect, the focus of the WTO’s 4th Global Review of Aid for Trade, to be held in July, will emphasize ways developing countries can best connect to these value chains.

“We will share this impressive story of the great successes that TMEA and its partners are having in facilitating trade and driving growth in the EAC”, concluded Valentine.
In his closing remarks, the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, Johan Borgstam, tied Lamy’s trip to the region’s importance as a contributor to global trade.

“The region needs to address existing bottlenecks that stifle trade and make the region uncompetitive. TMEA as an aid for trade programme is investing in projects that are essential to sustain the region’s growth rates and reduce poverty. The strong partnerships created with government and private sector and emerging results are a testament of the of TMEAs work in the region”, he said.

The EAC is the fastest growing economic bloc in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, Kenya and Rwanda continue to record growth of 6.0% and 7.6% respectively and the region is becoming increasingly attractive for foreign investment.

Five years into the global financial crisis, Africa as a region has shown great resilience, with an average growth rate of over 5% over the last decade. This is in contrast with the advanced economies, most of which are yet to fully recover from the economic downtown.

For more information, contact:
Frank Matsaert
Chief Executive Officer

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