Worldwide, multilateral trade agreements have reduced tariff barriers to trade. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs), however, have gained prominence as a major factor making exportation and importation difficult and expensive. NTBs are barriers to trade not related to tariffs, and can include both trade-restricting measures such as prohibitions, conditions or specific requirements for trade and trade-promoting measures such as export subsidies. NTBs are increasingly raising market access concerns at regional and global levels.
The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite, supported by TradeMark Southern Africa, have made major progress in addressing NTBs through a Tripartite-wide NTB Reporting, Monitoring and Eliminating Mechanism. The mechanism consists of an online reporting and monitoring system supported by national and regional structures involved in resolving the reported NTBs. The private sector is an integral part of the design of the system, as well as its main beneficiary.
To date, 20 out of 26 Tripartite Countries have established public and private sector focal points, as well as National Monitoring Committees (NMCs). NMCs comprise all government ministries and departments, private sector organisations, trade associations and major exporters and importers who are appointed to facilitate resolution of reported barriers against their countries as well as barriers imposed against their businesses.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area, launched on 12 June 2011, will reduce tariffs on substantially all originating trade in the Tripartite region. Along with other measures to reduce the cost of cross-border trade and transport, the Tripartite's NTB mechanism promises to support trade within the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA and make the region more competitive in the global market place.
For more information, visit the online NTB System at www.tradebarriers.org