Regional countries in bid to cut trade barriers



The meeting in progress Monday

They are from Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia and their two-day meeting has been organised by the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment (MFTI).

Also present are representatives of the World Bank, which – along with other development partners – is expected to give financial and technical support in the implementation of the agreement the delegates will come up with.

MFTI Minister Pierre Laporte launched the talks yesterday noting there has been significant progress in reducing traditional barriers to inter-country trade such as tariffs, but many other hurdles including restrictive regulations still exist.

He gave examples of non-tariff barriers for trade in goods, limits to trade in services and investment, poor business environment and inadequate support.

“The aim of this meeting therefore is to focus on setting a roadmap to identify concrete reforms in those areas,” he said.

He said it is important that the governments of each country “engage in preparedness of the private sector on regional development policy”.
“It is through good partnership and strong government support that firms will be more open to trade,” he said.

Intra-regional trade between Southern African Development Community countries which is 10% remains a concern for many countries, he said, noting that in contrast, 20% of total trade within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries and Latin American nations is regional.

He said to be able to achieve an increase in trade between countries it is necessary to implement specific reforms that would streamline trade regulations and processes, improve business climate, enhance trade in services – including professional and tourism services, and labour mobility – improve public financial management, trade support and trade logistics, value addition in agriculture, and do away with tariff barriers.

“It is expected that by the end of this two-day meeting the countries taking part will jointly agree on a set of specific policies to be implemented within a predetermined time frame,” he said, noting the reforms’ benefits would generate positive spillovers across countries that are not taken into account when the focus is on national operations.

“The agreement reached will be taken to the World Bank and other development partners to formally request assistance to support this endeavour and would be followed by face-to-face discussions during the October World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting in Tokyo.