Africans agree on custom union by September: Kenya

NAIROBI, May 17, 2008 (AFP) – Africa’s main trading bloc has agreed to finalise the details of a customs union by September to pave the way for its launch by the year’s end, Kenyan Trade Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said. Ministers of the 19-member Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) ended a two-day meeting in Kenya affirming that member states should be prepared for the creation of a common external tariff system by end of this year.

By September, all members should have agreed on the details of the “common external tariff and common tariff nomenclature and transitional periods,” Kenyatta told reporters.

“The council (of ministers) agreed on the need to preserve market access in the customs union for countries in the free trade area that might not participate in the customs unions,” he said, referring to countries that may delay joining the arrangement immediately.

Under a deal agreed last year, every COMESA member is expected to apply the same tariffs on goods from outside the region, allow free movement of capital goods and raw materials and impose a 10 percent tax for intermediate products and 25 percent for finished goods.

The bloc plans to launch a customs union by the end of 20