The fourth round talks of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market resumed yesterday in Kampala, Uganda, with all member states represented by their High Level Task Force (HLTF) members.
The ten-day talks are to devise strategies of facilitating outstanding issues on the right of establishment, right of residence and free movement of services among EAC member sates.
The discussions will also address the issues on the region’s transport and competition policy, economic and monetary policy coordination.
Talks on transport policy will be guided by a template of critical issues developed during an informal meeting by transport experts in Bujumbura last month.
Rwanda is represented by 17 members led by Prudence Sebahizi, the country’s Chief Negotiator and Secretary General of Regional Integration Committee.
“We are doing very well because we have already covered a number of issues. We shall have positive results out of this meeting because currently the issues at hand are minor. We have already achieved the major issues and made tangible progress,” Sebahizi said.
He added that as the negotiations go on, Rwanda is keen on fully liberalizing the service sector and granting of Rwandan investors free access to markets within in the region.
“Currently in Rwanda we treat investors from the East African Community like Nationals. We also want this favour for our investors among the partner States.” he said.
Despite being caught up by time in Bujumbura last month, the third round talks ended with signs of progress after the HLTF delegates broke the deadlock over contentious issues of rights of residence and establishment.
According to a statement from the EAC Secretariat, Tanzania lifted its objections to the inclusion of the article on right of residence in the proposed Protocol.
The article was reinstated providing, among others, that the EAC citizens who are nationals of other partner states shall have the right of residence in the host partner states for the purposes of seeking and carrying out an economic activity or employment, something Tanzania had earlier objected.
The article shall also include the right to enter and reside in the host partner state. Under the right of establishment, delegates reached a consensus on a number of provisions governing the right of establishment within the EAC Common Market.
They provided in the draft protocol that partner states shall abolish all restrictions on the right of establishment based on nationality of companies, firms and citizens of the partner states.
With reservations that were recorded by Tanzania, for further consultations, the delegates provided in the draft Protocol that, among others, a national of a partner state shall be enabled to “acquire/access and use land and buildings situated in the territory of another partner state for purposes of establishment”.
However, the specific issue of “acquiring/accessing” land and buildings was referred for further deliberations in the ongoing negotiation process.
Tanzania maintained the position that the “acquiring/accessing” clause in the article is deleted completely, arguing that “it is not a Common Market issue”.
This still remains an issue which needs a resolution from negotiators. With considerations for free movement of services, negotiators reached a consensus that partner states shall progressively remove existing restrictions and shall not introduce any new restrictions that will impede trade in services among the Partner States.
The EAC secretariat set December 2008 as a target to conclude the Common Market Protocol. To meet this deadline, negotiators are requesting the secretariat to provide an inventory of the status of the draft protocol highlighting what has been agreed upon, what is outstanding and what needs to be refered to the higher policy levels of the community.