By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. East African business leaders have called for an immediate end to the growing trade standoff between Kenya and Uganda.
They want the two neighboring countries to sit down together and resolve all outstanding issues amicably instead of lingering bickering.
“Retaliation is not and should not be the ultimate solution,” said the East African Business Council (EABC), an umbrella body of private sector associations based in Arusha. Dialogue, he insisted, should be an option because it is in line with the spirit of the Treaty establishing the East African Community (EAC).
A dispatch from the regional business body did not mention the ongoing saga in which hundreds of trucks were stranded at the Kenya-Uganda border. Drivers in Kenya, in particular, have complained about not being able to enter Uganda due to the cost of COVID-19 vaccination and cumbersome customs clearance procedures.
The statement, however, cited persistent non-tariff barriers (NTBs) among the factors that have negatively impacted cross-border trade between the two countries. “Bilateral dialogue to eliminate all outstanding NTBs between Kenya and Uganda will boost trade,” the dispatch added to The Citizen. Instead of escalating quarrels on either side, the two countries should hold a bilateral dialogue “to avoid a trade stalemate and retaliation.”
A sustained stalemate, the EABC claimed, would have a serious impact on intra-EAC trade which it said was currently low at around 15%.
Trade figures within the six-nation bloc were declining due to the denial of preferential market access for products originating in the EAC.
Further retaliatory trade measures will further reduce trade, affect employment, market access and economies of scale, especially for the region’s industrial sector.
Persistent NTBs have not only resulted in increased transaction time and costs of doing cross-border business, but also reduced the competitiveness of products originating in the EAC bloc.
The EABC, which has observer status with the EAC, has identified two key factors that are critical in resolving persistent and increasing NTBs.
One is the lack of an effective EAC trade dispute resolution mechanism through the EAC Trade Remedies Committee, once proposed.
The other is the slowness in resolving trade barriers identified by the EAC Regional Monitoring Committee (RMC).
“This is evident from the recent meeting of the Sectoral Council for Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIF)”, underlined the professional organization.