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Zambia: Tackle non-tariff barriers, urges US expert

Published date:
Monday, 18 June 2012

A United States (US) trade expert has urged African countries to fight off the non-tariff barriers which are the biggest hindrance to the growth of infra-Africa trade.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance at US Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration John Anderson hailed African countries for removing tariffs on goods but complained that the biggest enemy remained the non-tariff barriers.

Speaking from Washington through a teleconference, Mr Anderson said various African countries had, through economic grouping removed tariffs of goods but kept several inland barriers which were pushing up their goods.

Mr Anderson said with tariffs removed, the only cost for countries like Zambia in taking goods abroad, should be transportation cost but unfortunately several African countries were encountering unnecessary red tape in moving certain goods in foreign countries.

"It is important that intra-Africa trade gets lifted but Africa is its own enemy. Economic groupings are very important and we have seen that tariffs which were pushing the cost of business high have been removed.

"But we have noted that non-tariff barriers are still rife- regulatory hurdles, road blocks, unnecessary red tape and other unplanned costs when taking goods to the port are among the several factors that are really harming the growth of intra-Africa trade," he said.

He said with Africa and the USA opting for preferential trading deal under the Africa Growth opportunity Act (AGOA), Africa needed to work on the trade challenges to not just take advantage of the US market but the huge market that exists within the continent.

The USA population is almost 400 million while the economic grouping population for the East and Southern Africa (COMESA) has more than 400 million people but growth of trade has been hampered by among other things poor infrastructure in Africa.

The 11th AGOA conference was held last week in Washington at which the US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton pledged her Government's commitment to helping Africa's trade grow through among other things like improving infrastructure.

And Amy Holman, Director of Economics Policy Staff at the US Bureau of Africa Affairs said that Africa can pick a leaf from Europe on how it has handled the non-tariffs barriers in a bid to boost trade.

"We have seen Europe transform in to one trading place and that is what Africa needs to do. Africa though has infrastructure challenges and wit the expertise that we have, we shall see how we can help," she said.

Ultimately, Ms Holman said, the consumers should be the targeted recipients of the benefits of all policy matters aimed at improving trade.

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