In October 2008 the Heads of State of COMESA, SADC and the EAC endorsed the need to harmonise the policies of the three institutions in order to attain regional integration and development driven by trade. This cooperation has been embraced in Articles 28 and 29 (and their Annexes) of Part IV of the draft Agreement on the Establishment of a Tripartite Free Trade Area on trade-related areas which explicitly make reference to the need for the harmonization of Standardization, Metrology and Conformity Assessment practices and the harmonization of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures among Tripartite member states.
Individually, each of the RECs has done some work towards harmonization of standards. The EAC has a catalogue of some 900 harmonized standards and a relatively active EAC Standards Committee.
In SADC, SADCSTAN (SADC Cooperation in Standardization) together with SADC Cooperation in Legal Metrology (SADCMEL), SADC Cooperation in Measurement Traceability (SADCMET), Standardization, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM), and SADC Cooperation in Accreditation (SADCA), form the basic building blocks for cooperation in standards and quality. Over 77 standards have already been harmonized.
In the EAC, the EAC Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Meteorology Testing Act provides a legal instrument for the development of regional standards. More than1100 standards have been harmonized, but not fully adopted at the national level.
Following the Tripartite meeting of heads of State, the three RECs have started the process of harmonizing their standards. Cooperation among the RECs has been on-going. Meetings among the RECs have been taking place. One of these was the meeting in May 2010 in Nairobi involving subject specialists from Member States that developed the document on the Principles and Procedures for the development of Tripartite Standards, which defines the methodologies for the development, adoption and publication of Tripartite Standards. The document is still to be adopted by the Tripartite.
At the 11th meeting of the sub-committee on Customs and Trade of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force, reiterated that, with regard to standards harmonization:
* RECs must share harmonized standards
* RECS should harmonise regional standards and that
* The RECs should assist the NSBs to develop a regional framework for cooperation and mutual agreement
In order to assist the Tripartite advance the aforementioned activities agreed at the meeting of the sub-committee on Customs and Trade, TMSA convened a meeting of officials responsible for TBT and SPS issues at each of the three RECs on 21 and 22 October 2010 in Pretoria to determine the status of harmonization in each of the RECs as well as
* To assist the RECs to develop a strategy to operationalize the agreed principles, and
* To develop and agree a common work programme, for subsequent discussion and adoption by the member states.