COMESA unveils guidelines on free movement of goods across the region

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COMESA has published and gazetted the regional guidelines on the movement of goods and services across the region.

This heralds the beginning of the implementation of the guidelines across the 21 member States.

The guidelines were endorsed three weeks ago by the COMESA Ministers responsible for regional trade.

Regional trade has consistently faced difficulties as regional States put in place strict measures to keep the Coronavirus away from crossing into their borders, resulting in disruption of cargo movements.

The overriding principle of the guidelines is to apply common measures on trade corridors and border points to safely maintain the flow of goods and services within the region.

With the publishing of the guidelines, the regional States are expected to domesticate them as part of their national response measures to Covid-19.

In this regard, the ministries responsible for coordinating the implementation of COMESA programmes in member States will lead in the application of the guidelines and ensure their provisions inform decision-making at the national Covid-19 response committees.

The regional private sector including freight companies is some of the core stakeholders that have been adversely affected by the Covid-19.

The guidelines thus provide a basis to engage respective governments to implement the recommendations to address the current challenges affecting the flow of goods and services within the region.

”The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the fore the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding undue disruptions to the free movement of persons and the delivery of goods and essential services across the region,” says COMESA Director of Trade, Dr Christopher Onyango.

In adopting the Guidelines, the Ministers acknowledged that despite the incidence of the pandemic, the implementation of the Common Market policies on the movement of goods, services and persons should continue to be governed by the principle of market integration and regional cooperation between the Member States.

They stated: ”Amidst responses to combat COVID-19, COMESA Member States should continue to be guided by a collective commitment of maintaining open and connected supply chains working collaboratively to identify and address trade disruptions with ramifications on the flow of goods and essential services within the region.”

The development and issuing of the Guidelines, COMESA expects to rally the collective interest of all its Member States to ensure that trade routes (road, rail, air and sea freight) remain open to facilitate the flow of goods including essential supplies.

Given the overlapping membership of regional countries to other regional economic communities, the COMESA Guidelines considered similar guidelines developed by EAC and SADC in response to the COVID-19 to ensure they complement and not conflict.

Read the published guidelines here.

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