THE stage has been set for a rise in COMESA trade with Eritrea following a successful capacity building programme that presented to stakeholders, the opportunities prevalent in the region for Eritrean firms.
The training which served as an eye opener for business stakeholders in the country was conducted in Asmara last month by a team from the Secretariat comprising Tasara Muzorori, Senior Trade Officer; Zerezghi Kidane, Senior Customs Affairs Officer; Helen Kenani, Trade Policy Expert; and Anthony Walakira, ADP Eurotrace Expert.
The training focused on enhancing the knowledge of Eritrean stakeholders on COMESA Rules of Origin and elimination mechanism of Non-Tariff Barriers. It also covered customs cooperation and trade facilitation, identifying sensitive products, as well as liberalization of Trade in Services, and developments on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) negotiation process.
Participants that were drawn from the Eritrean private and public sector acknowledged that their trade with COMESA Member States was not optimal partly due to insufficient understanding of the regional market.
“Most of our exports are destined to European countries, but now we shall consider the regional market especially for salt which Eritrea used to export to Uganda and other COMESA member States”, they said.
Eritrea was among the first countries to reduce tariffs for intra-COMESA trade by 80% in 1998 and this percentage still holds to date. According to the Director of Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Mrs Zeferwork Fesahaye Desta, the training programme would contribute to better understanding among the stakeholders of COMESA programmes including facilitation of the joining by Eritrea to the Free Trade Area (FTA). She was addressing the participants during the opening of the training.
Participants sought clarification on the best practices on the administration of the COMESA Certificates of Origin. The COMESA team clarified that in most of the COMESA Member States, the national revenue authorities were the Designated Issuing Authorities (DIA) to issue the certificates owing to their technical know-how and competencies. In the case of Eritrea, the Eritrean National Chamber of Commerce (ENCCI) is currently the DIA for COMESA Certificates of Origin.
The Eritrean Private Sector representatives recommended that a similar capacity training workshop should be organized for the larger private sector which have limited knowledge on what COMESA has to offer for Eritrea.