COMESA HOLDS ITS EIGHTH VIRTUAL MEETING OF THE TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP ON TRADE IN SERVICES

COMESA HOLDS ITS EIGHTH VIRTUAL MEETING OF THE TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP ON TRADE IN SERVICES

20th September, 2020…The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) held its Eighth Committee on Trade in Services virtual meeting themed “COMESA towards digital economic Integration”.

The aim of the meeting was to share information with Member States by providing updates regarding their submission of draft offers, share preliminary technical analysis of the initial offers submitted with a view to build a common view and understanding towards implementation of one of the most important Council directives that the commitments by the Member States in this process should go deeper than what they agreed globally at the WTO in order to be meaningful.

In addition, Secretariat will share with Member States information on capacity building initiatives in trade in services planned for the coming months as an adjustment to new normal situation.

Speaking during the official opening of the meeting, Director of Trade and Customs of the COMESA Secretariat, Dr. Christopher Onyango thanked Member States for their participation in the meeting indicating that their presence assures secretariat of their commitments to move forward regional agenda towards seamless free movement of goods and services.

Dr. Onyango hoped that member states share the same understanding that during this COVID-19 Pandemic they try to adjust to the new normal under which this pandemic has brought about significant and numerous changes in their lives including the virtual meetings to ensure that despite the prevailing circumstances, implementation of programmes continue in view of their importance.

He said that trade in services has become a fundamental economic activity globally and play a key role in job creation, building competitiveness and significantly contributing to economic growth and thus creating a need for Member States to streamline their policies and promote trade in service among themselves.

The Director believes that it is imperative to progress the work towards concluding the trade in services negotiations in all the identified seven priority sectors as this has the potential to enhance the development and diversification of regional services as well as facilitate an increase trade in services not just within COMESA but also proactively find solutions to be competitive and trade with third parties outside COMESA and eventually globally.

The Zambian delegation was led by the Director Foreign Trade, Bessie Chelemu with stakeholders that included Ministry of Energy and Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Delivering a vote of thanks as a host Country, Mrs. Chelemu disclosed that this is the first virtual meeting COMESA has held successfully on Trade in Services as Member States face the challenges that COVID-19 has caused.

She assured secretariat that member states will remain committed to addressing issues that will advance negotiations in trade in service despite COVID-19 by taking an advantage of online platforms that provides an opportunity of conducting business in a different way.

Mrs. Chelemu was optimistic that the virtual meeting will re-vitalize the important process of trade in services negotiations to move forward in achieving the ultimate goal of trade in services liberalization in order to create an integrated COMESA market on trade in services.

In her concluding remarks, Director-Foreign Trade expressed gratitude that COMESA is thinking of providing ways to address the challenges of free movement of goods and services.

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