COMESA member states must commit themselves to eliminating outstanding tariff and non- tariff barriers if they are to realize full regional integration and seamless flow of goods and services, says assistant secretary general Dr Kipyego Cheluget.
Dr Cheluget said that owing to trade barriers, intra-regional trade among member States wa low compared to trade with other countries outside the region,” he said.
He said therefore that member States should come up with innovative ways of funding regional integration programmes to reduce dependence on cooperating partners.
Ambassador Cheluget was speaking at COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka when he officially opened the regional workshop to validate the draft COMESA 2016-2020 Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP).
Dr Cheluget said the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, to be adopted this year by the Council of Ministers, was expected to contribute to structural transformation of the economies of the COMESA Member States.
He said member States should therefore aim at promoting economic growth through industrialization and investment in the energy production.
“As we think of our strategy of moving forward, we must look at what we have achieved and challenge ourselves if we are doing enough for regional integration or we need to hasten the pace,” he said.
The three-day regional workshop would discuss the proposed Medium Term Strategic Plan which will take effect from 2016.
The new strategy was aimed at creating an enabling trade and investment environment, with a focus on market integration, infrastructure development, and industrialization.
It will also include small and medium enterprise (SMEs) development and regional industrial clusters, institutional and regulatory policies, capacity development as well as resource mobilization.
He noted that security concerns by members States especially on immigration inhibited the free movement of people.
It will also foster the overall economic development of the Member States through trade and investment.
He said the regional organisation had made remarkable progress in regional integration over the years by developing innovative trade facilitation technologies.
Ambassador Cheluget however observed that daunting challenges existed especially in implementing the protocol on free movement of people.
“The free movement of business people and capital is the biggest impendent to improving the levels of intra-regional trade. Subsequently, the intra-regional trade is low compared to external trade with other countries globally,’’ he said.