EAC Civil Society Organizations demand for fairness in regional trade

A joint communiqué expressed concern over Non- Tariff Barriers like the rules of origin, saying they impend access of the region’s products into European markets.

A joint communiqué expressed concern over Non- Tariff Barriers like the rules of origin, saying they impend access of the region’s products into European markets.

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from the five member states of the East African Community (EAC) recently held a meeting in Kampala to discuss ways of getting a fair deal from the ongoing multi-lateral and regional trade.

In an interview with The New Times, Elly Twineyo, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTDE), said that the conference had provided a platform for the regional stake holders and other policy makers from the five economies to discuss, debate and share pertinent trade policy and practical issues on trade and EAC integration.

“The region’s plans to negotiate with other countries and blocs as one negotiating trade entity have both benefits and challenges for poverty reduction in the EAC,” he said.

”We looked at the opportunities and challenges that will arise out of this arrangement in terms of the region negotiating for fair trade policies,” he added.

Twineyo observed that as key players in the economy it was important for the cross–section of CSOs partners and players from the region to actively engage governments in the region on matters concerning bilateral and multi-lateral negotiations in order to get a fair deal for its people.  

He expressed skepticism over  the viability of fair trade within an Economic Partnerships Agreements (EPAs) for the region whose main exports to the European Union are primary agricultural.

He added that East African countries were being forced to give so much concession by reducing their tariffs in anticipation of preferential market access.

“These are all pertinent issues for economic development. For instance there is no such a thing as Free Trade but an open market expect in Hong Kong which is just a city in China. The truth is that countries penetrate the markets through negotiations not Free Trade,” he said.

“As members of EAC we want access to the market because the EU is not an open market. This means we have to negotiate in order to have these markets open to us but still the process has to be gradual,”

Twineyo pointed out it was important for East Africa to discuss EPAs with the EU in advance to help governments negotiate fair trade that will facilitate economic development. He argued that the EPAs posed a threat not only to local producers and industries but also regional integration.

In a joint communiqué at the end of the three day (11-October 13) meeting in Kampala, the team of civil society members from the region expressed concern over non tariff barriers like rules of origin, stringent rules that have impended access of the region’s products into European markets.

The EAC regional conference was organized by the African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTDE) in collaboration with Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) from Nairobi, MS Uganda and DENIVA.

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