2nd WTO Trade Policy Review for EAC Partner States

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On 26 November 2012 saa 06:58
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The second Trade Policy Review (TPR) for EAC Partner States was held on 21st and 23rd November 2012 at the WTO Headquarters in Geneva.

The basis for the review was a report by the WTO Secretariat with Annexes containing reports prepared by the Governments of the five Partner States namely, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

Colombia was the Chair and the People’s Republic of China was the discussant.

The TPR enabled a multilateral assessment of the effects of regional and national EAC Partner States’ trade policies on the world trading systems thereby increasing the transparency and understanding by other WTO Member countries of EAC Partner States’ trade policies and practices.

Advance written questions on EAC’s trade policies were provided by the following WTO members: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, Japan, India, Korea, Pakistan, United States, and Turkey, to which the EAC provided detailed written responses.

Reading the EAC Partner States’ opening statement on 21 November, His Excellency Dr. Tom Mboya Okeyo, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to the WTO highlighted the EAC achievements in the regional integration process since the first TPR in 2010 namely, the implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market; and the negotiations towards the establishment of a Monetary Union.

He highlighted the tremendous trade, business and investment opportunities available in the EAC sector such as in ICT, finance, insurance, tourism, renewable energy, infrastructure (railway, roads and ports), as well as in agro-processing and mining.

Statements were also made by the Discussant and other WTO Members in which they commended the EAC integration efforts.

They also asked some questions on areas such as removal of NTBs; progress in the Tripartite negotiations of the COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA; harmonization of sectoral policies in key sectors such as agriculture, mining, services, and steps being undertaken to align IPR regime with international norms and effective implementation of their international obligations.

On 23 November 2012, Hon. Dr. William M. Mgiwa, Minister for Finance from the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of the EAC Partner States, read a statement responding to issues raised by the WTO Members relating to EAC’s economic environment, trade policies and sectoral policies.

Hon. Mgimwa highlighted the macro-economic policy environment in the region and the legal and regulatory frameworks for inward investments and economic growth.

He mentioned the challenges faced by the EAC Partner States in implementing the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols, and the steps being taken to address these challenges.

On the supply-side constraints, he elaborated on the major projects in the region which includes construction of roads, initiatives underway in the energy sector, railways, ports and ICT that will further ease the cost of doing business in the EAC.

He also pointed out the ongoing efforts by the Partner States in undertaking regulatory reforms to improve the business environment.

Hon. Mgimwa provided detailed responses on the mechanisms in place for monitoring, reporting and resolving NTBs in the region, including the current development of a legally binding mechanism on the elimination of identified NTBs that will ensure that infringements arising from NTBs are removed in a timely manner.

On trade policy, detailed responses were provided on the trade facilitation initiatives underway in the region, harmonization of internal taxes, WTO notifications, trade remedies, public procurement and intellectual property rights.

The EAC also provided clarifications on sectoral policies on Agriculture, mining, energy, manufacturing and services.

In his concluding remarks, the Chairperson noted that WTO Members welcomed the EAC Partner States’ commitment to the multilateral trading system and encouraged them to continue their active participation.

He appreciated EAC Partner States’ continuous integration efforts and the vision of the process as a way to facilitate their further integration into the multilateral trading system.

He urged the EAC Partner States to take further steps to address the hurdles of poor infrastructure such as roads, rail and the high cost of energy coupled with complex administrative procedures add to the high cost of doing business and increase productivity and competitiveness in order to attract FDI.

Competition policy at the regional level may also help the business environment.

He stated that Members requested the EAC Partner States to dismantle a number of NTBs that continue to hamper trade, including intra-EAC trade, and urged them to comply with their notification obligations, particularly in the areas of SPS, TBT, and import licensing.

He highlighted some key areas for further actions or improvements, including: Tariff protection and conformity with WTO provisions; steps in the harmonization of sectors such as Agriculture, Intellectual Property Rights, and Services.

He further noted that the TPR had contributed to deepen the WTO members’ understanding of the regional, as well as national components of the trade regimes of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.