Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Simplified Trade Regime (STR) is a trade arrangement which allows cross border traders in the COMESA region to enjoy duty free status when they import goods originating from member states.
Through COMESA STR, the COMESA regional bloc encourages “free trade” by extending the benefits of a free trade area between countries by abolishing duty on all goods produced locally and sold in members of these regional groupings.
STR overcomes problems in proving goods originate in a member country and therefore are not subject to duty. However, taxes become payable if the goods attract Excise Duty and Value Added Tax (VAT). STR is designed for small consignments that have a value of $1,000 or less. The processing fee for customs declaration is now US$1.
Malawi launched COMESA STR with Zambia in May 2010 and with Zimbabwe in August 2012. Currently, the borders that are involved in STR transactions are Nyamanda-Mwanza for Malawi and Zimbabwe and Mwami–Mchinji for Malawi and Zambia.
There are Common Lists of Products that are agreed between COMESA member states to be traded under the STR arrangement. In essence, there are agreed lists of products between Malawi and Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe and Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The list of eligible products includes some agricultural products, live animals, food products, furniture, stationery and other assorted items. Therefore traders enjoy duty free status on such goods originating from any of the three member states.
The proof of origin required at the border under COMESA STR is the agreed common list of products. Some goods such as agricultural products obviously originate in one country. Other items, especially manufactured goods, may be made up of parts from other countries outside COMESA.
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