Reports that East African Community member states have not complied fully with the provisions of the region's customs union protocol are to say the least disheartening. After a decade of emotive negotiations, one would expect the implementation of all stages of the customs union to proceed without any resistance from national institutions. When traders complain of slow clearance because of application of different quality benchmarks, red tape and under-staffing at government departments, governments should not expect to get away with explanations that these are normal and excusable teething problems. More so when the complaints include allegations that tariffs are still being levied on goods produced within a fully fledged custom union. Kenya stopped charging tariffs on goods coming into her territory from the EAC partners five year ago on the understanding that the neighbours would fold their tariff walls gradually over the period, affording them ample time in which to cushion their nascent industries from being swamped with Kenyan products and being suffocated out of the market. It, therefore, wreaks of mischief that after one partner has met its side of the bargain the other sits back ostensibly on administrative bottlenecks that for all intents and purposes appear to be effective barriers to market access. Generally, the whole idea about economic integration in the region was to loosen border controls to promote free movement of goods, persons and factors of production. In other words, EAC countries agreed to merge their markets to transform from a region that preferred to trade with outsiders to one that encourages its 126 million people to trade among themselves. To some extent, EAC has been true to this dream. Over the five years of implementing the customs union protocol, the intra regional trade has improved from five per cent in 2005 to 13 per cent by end of last year. But this is still very low compared to EU where intra regional trade accounts for 60 per cent of total trade volumes or ASEAN countries which have elevated trade among themselves to 40 per cent of trade volumes. This is why the EAC's Directorate of Customs and Trade must move with speed to investigate and punish countries that block free movement of goods from other member states. To do this, however, the directorate needs some teeth which it doesn't have at the moment. The EAC states must therefore go back to the drawing board and reconstitute the directorate with powers that allow it to play its role effectively as an independent arbiter in the intra regional tariff rows. The department must also investigate rising claims that numerous non tariff barriers - mostly caused by failure to harmonise national laws with the community treaty (the East African Customs Management Act) have cropped up to replace the collapsed tariffs. It is confusing for traders to operate in a region which claims to be a single territory when national standards bodies are still applying different quality benchmarks at entry points. The loose ends must be tied immediately to foil possible disillusionment that could jeopardise public support for the integration programmes that lie ahead such as the transition into a common market protocol expected from July. A common market can only be built on a solid customs union. Failure to implement the customs union in full also provides grounds for mistrust among citizens of the five partner states - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi - that could poison the political climate so much that a political federation proposed for the future would become virtually impossible. http://allafrica.com/stories/201003011756.html WHY DID TANZANIA SIGN THE AGREEMENT IF IT KNEW THAT IT WONT IMPLEMENT IT, WHY IS THIS COUNTRY TAKING OTHER NATIONS FOR A RIDE ON ISSUES CONCERNING THE E.A. COMMUNITY?