By Alvar Mwakyusa
Trade volume among member states of the East African Community (EAC) has declined during the past one year, with officials attributing the fall to existing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) Tanzania's Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, said however that the decline was due to reduced trade in some products, such as food crops, mainly rice, but official figures fall short of specific reasons for the slump in trade.
"Trade has been growing over the past years save for 'just' last year ... the removal of non-tariff barriers is among issues to be resolved," he explained.
Dr Mahiga was speaking during the 34th EAC Council of Ministers meeting held yesterday ahead of the 18th EAC Heads of State Summit scheduled for tomorrow in Dar es Salaam.
The minister noted, for instance, that other countries in the regional bloc had raised concerns on existence of Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), complaining that the two entities were subjecting traders to double inspection of goods.
"They look at the existence of the two institutions as a form of non-tariff barriers to trade ... so these are among issues to be sorted out," he stated.
Earlier during the session, Uganda's third deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs, Mr Kirunda Kivejinja, urged countries in the bloc to focus on how to fast-track the integration rather than dwell on minor issues.
"Uganda and Tanzania could become the food basket of the EAC given their vast arable land but you will hear people discussing trivial issues like how many Tanzanians, Kenyans or Rwandese are employed at the secretariat.