Heads of Customs from the COMESA region have agreed on prioritizing Post -Covid-19 recovery in the 2021-2023 Customs and Trade Facilitation Work Programme. In a virtual meeting conducted last week, 14 October 2020, the officials said this will enable the identification and prioritization of activities that will enhance post COVID-19 recovery for Member States.
According to the Report from the Sixth Meeting of Heads of Customs Sub-Committee, COMESA Secretariat should engage donors for financial and technical support for the implementation of these prioritized interventions.
The meeting also recommended that Member States should continue building on the trade facilitation measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure sustainability by providing national legislative and institutional frameworks for the new modalities for operating.
The objective of the meeting was to consider the Report of the Customs Experts meeting held 12-13 October which focused on the progress of implementation of the three-year COMESA Customs and Trade Facilitation Work Programme (2018-2020). Key issues under this programme are the implementation of Electronic Certificate of Origin (eCO), draft Customs training manuals, proposed amendments to the Protocol on Rules of Origin, implementation of the COMESA Regional Trade Information Portal and the Customs Automation Regional Support Centre.
Other recommendations made during the one-day meeting was the need for Member States to implement coordinated testing in accordance with the agreed guidelines to avoid delays and congestion at borders. They urged the Secretariat to facilitate a regional consultative meeting involving health, trade and customs officials to consider harmonizing COVID-19 testing fees. These recommendations will be presented to the Trade and Customs Committee Meeting set for end of October.
COMESA’s Director of Trade and Customs Dr Christopher Onyango who opened the meeting urged the Customs’ administration to build on the innovations they have introduced in response to the COVID-19.
“Take advantage of the technical and financial support available under the EDF 11 Trade Facilitation Programme to reinforce implementation of customs automation innovations and trade facilitation measures provided for under the COMESA Treaty and COMESA Management Regulations and WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,” he said.
Delegates from Comoros, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated.