Trade licenses are required for the import and export of certain goods, including military uniforms, wild animals, some food, and military equipment. Malawi is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), granting trade preferences to member states. The establishment of a free trade area is scheduled for 2004. The country also has bilateral trade agreements with Zimbabwe and South Africa, granting the duty-free exchange of goods.
In 1998, the government eliminated export taxes on tobacco, sugar, tea, and coffee. Machinery, basic foodstuffs, and raw materials are admitted with a 10% to 5% tax. In July 1999, the maximum tariff rate was reduced from 30% of value to 25%. Tariffs on intermediate goods and raw materials were reduced from 10% to 5% and from 5% to 0%, respectively.
Luxury goods are assessed at higher rates than ordinary consumer items. Excise duties are levied for revenue purposes on spirits, beer, cigarettes and tobacco, petroleum products, and certain other items.