Tanzania has decided to withdraw from the 22-nation Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA). The Guardian reported that Minister for Industry and Commerce Iddi Simba, had announced on July 2 that, after some research, the country had decided to withdraw because of COMESA’s proposal to reduce customs tariffs for member countries by 90%. The first sign of this move had been a speech by President Mkapa at the meeting of COMESA Heads of State in Nairobi on May 25 when he said that it was unrealistic to expect the planned tariff arrangement to occur in October 2000 as envisaged. The development levels of member countries were too uneven he said.
And hesitating on East African Cooperation
A further indication of what many see as increasing protectionist sentiment in Tanzania was the recent announcement that the signing of the much heralded East African Community Treaty which was scheduled for July 30 would be postponed until October. Preparatory negotiations which extended to 12 days (Tanzania’s delegation totalled 25 people) apparently revealed fundamental differences between the three parties on the major sectors of tourism, trade and industry. Negotiators were said to have been preoccupied with safeguarding their national interests. Contributing to the delay had been a study report issued on June 22 that had recommended the setting up of a ‘Preparedness Unit’ to improve Tanzania’s role in the proposed community and stating that the reduction of tariffs should be phased in slowly. However, on August 12, Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete was quoted in the Daily News as stating that Tanzania was as committed as before to signing the treaty before the end of this year.