Permanent Mission of the European Union to
the World Trade Organization (WTO)

 

EU Statement at the Trade Policy Review of the East African Community (EAC), 20 March 2019

Geneva, 20/03/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190320_6
Local Statements

On behalf of the European Union, I would like to welcome the East African Community (EAC) Delegation led by H.E. Ms Hakuziyaremye. I would also like to thank the Discussant, H.E. Dr. Athaliah Lesiba MOLOKOMME (Botswana), for her introductory words. As usual we than the WTO Secretariat for their excellent report and the EAC for their reports.

These five countries are examined together in a Trade Policy Review as they are working together in a regional integration process. The EU strongly believes that these countries' continued and deeper integration in the East African Community is of utmost importance as it boosts their competitiveness and attractiveness as investment locations.

The EU welcomes the progress made by the EAC in its integration since its last TPR in 2012. As the spokesperson of EAC noted, the EAC's customs union has been strengthened and customs clearance at the borders made more efficient; the EU welcomes in particular the  regional Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) system and the one-stop border posts in 2016. Secondly, in 2013 the East African Monetary Union Protocol (EAMU Protocol) was adopted with the aim to establish a monetary union by 2024.

Since the last joint review, the EAC's economic growth has mainly been supported by increased public investments in transport and energy infrastructures, and driven by tourism activities and other services sectors. The EU acknowledges steps taken by the EAC countries to diversify their economies and encourages efforts to continue diversification their export basket, to expand trade in manufacturing and to modernise SMEs. Economic progress should be underpinned by socio-economic efforts, good governance, respect for labour and human rights and combatting fraud and corruption.

With a view to enhancing transparency and predictability, the EU urges the EAC countries to meet their notification requirements under the WTO. We welcome the ratification of the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, and we call on Burundi and Tanzania to follow suit. We also join other Members’ calls to fully and swiftly proceed to implementing it, notably as regards outstanding notifications under categories B and C.

The EU commends EAC's efforts at regional level to assist the countries to implement the TRIPS Agreement. We encourage Burundi to accept the 2005 Protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement.

The EU calls on each country not yet having signed the joint statements in Buenos Aires, to consider joining the initiatives on electronic commerce, investment facilitation and MSMEs.  As regards the declaration on women and trade, and as reminded by the Icelandic delegation, we note with appreciation that all members but Tanzania have signed up to the Buenos Aires declaration.

The EU is a steady and major supporter of East Africa's economic development and a key partner in the EAC countries' integration into the global marketplace. The EU remains a fundamental market destination for East African exports, and a major trading partner for all EAC countries.

Four out of five EAC Members are LDCs (Kenya being the exception), and thus benefit from duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under our "Everything But Arms” (EBA) preferential arrangement.

However, as these countries are quickly moving up the development ladder, they will progressively graduate out of the EBA scheme. The EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement – whose ratification process is underway – is the sole trade regime that can provide a truly bilateral, permanent and uniform trade relations with the EU for all EAC Members. In September 2016, Kenya and Rwanda signed the EPA and Kenya has ratified it. The EPA also perfectly fits into EAC countries' drive and efforts towards deepening regional integration in East Africa, and beyond on the continent. As it is fully in line with the EAC Common External Tariff, it contributes to creating a more efficient regional market with predictable and stable rules. EAC Members' drive towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) will also be supported by the EPA as its tariff schedules and flexible rules of origin will prove being useful building blocks to continental integration. The EPA covers not only trade but also offers opportunities for development cooperation.

More specifically, via the 11th European Development Fund for the period 2014-2020, an amount of €50 million was allocated to the East African region to support regional economic integration and support for trade. In addition, a total amount of about €2300 million is allocated to the national cooperation. In line with the countries' development plans, national cooperation focuses mainly on support to sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture and food security, and good governance.

The EU submitted a number of questions on several areas of EAC countries’ trade policies and practices. We have received replies to most of our questions and are currently reviewing them. We invite EAC to use the alternative timeframe in the future for its next TPR, as this would allow more time for Members under review to deal with the questions and the other Members to review them and thus enhance transparency of this exercise.

On behalf of the EU, I look forward to a constructive exchange of views during this Trade Policy Review and wish the East African Community and its delegation from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda the best of success. Thank you, Chairman.

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