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Access to markets

As a developing country, the Comoros benefits from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which grants it privileged access to the market of developed countries without discrimination or obligation of reciprocity. The quotEverything but Armsquot initiative granted by the European Union (EU) to the least developed countries (LDCs) and from which the Comoros also benefit, falls within the framework of the GSP. It opens duty-free and quota-free access for all products originating in LDCs to the EU market. India and China also grant preferential tariffs to LDCs including the Comoros. Comorian products are admitted to both countries free of customs duties.

The majority of the agreements from which the Comoros benefit are on a non-reciprocal basis. As an African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) country, Comoros benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. In 2009, the Comoros however did not sign the interim EPA with the EU, unlike the six member countries of Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) including Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. Through this agreement, countries enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for all products except arms. Access for EU products to these markets is progressive.

As an African country, Comoros also benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Comoros have been eligible for AGOA since 2008, an initiative that allows Comorian products to benefit from preferential access to the United States market.

Agreements within regional groupings generally relate to reciprocal preferences. The C ommon Market for Eastern and Southern Africa ( COMESA ) is the first economic and trade integration zone to which the Comoros joined. The country ratified the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) Treaty in 2006, and since 2012 has applied a zero-rate preferential tariff on goods imported from 18 other member countries, apart from a list of sensitive products defined by the Comoros. This tariff is also applied to Comorian products exported to the region, when they meet the criteria on origin adopted by member countries.

With regard to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Comoros became a member in 2017. On the commercial level, one of the advantages for the Comoros of belonging to this grouping is the presence of the South Africa, which is a potential market for exported Comorian products. Since joining the SADC FTA in 2017, Comoros has exempted products imported from 15 other member countries from customs duties but applied its own tariffs on products originating from non-member countries. Indeed, the establishment of a customs union within the SADC is not yet effective. In order to qualify for duty exemptions, goods must meet the origin criteria set out in Annex 1 of the SADC Trade Protocol.

The Comoros have also joined other regional groupings including the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). One of the strategic thrusts of the IOC is to strengthen economic and trade cooperation between member countries in order to better prepare for integration into larger groupings (COMESA, SADC). Under the IOC FTA, goods traded between member countries are exempt from customs duties subject to compliance with the origin criteria defined in the Protocol on the IOC Rules of Origin. The COI origin criteria are very close to the COMESA model. The Protocol is applied by all member countries (Comoros, Seychelles, Madagascar) with the exception of Reunion which is part of the EU.

The Union of the Comoros is also a member of the Tripartite Free Trade Area bringing together COMESA, SADC and the East African Community (EAC). The tripartite agreement aims to create a common market between the 27 member countries of the three regional economic communities and thus resolve the problems of overlapping memberships. Negotiations for the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area began in 2011 and culminated in the signing of the Free Trade Treaty in 2015. Although many countries have signed the treaty, including Comoros, the agreement is awaiting ratification and negotiations are continuing in several areas, notably on trade in services.