The Minister of the East African Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, has said that Rwandans will gain from the East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol which guarantees free movement of goods, persons, services, labor and capital.
The Common Market Protocol, which has been approved by Rwanda’s cabinet and law markers, intends to widen and deepen cooperation amongst the EAC partner states in the areas of economic and social development.
“Approval by legislators means we agree with the content of the Protocol. What is remaining is for the President to sign,” Mukaruliza told Business Times yesterday.
The Minister sounded upbeat that President Paul Kagame will sign the set of rules and guidelines before the April 30, 2010 deadline that was set by the EAC Heads of State to ratify and deposit the instruments with the EAC Secretariat.
The ratification of the Protocol at the national level among the five member states will make the Common Market a reality beginning July 1, this year.
“We have a lot of expectations –Rwandans will benefit a lot from the improved trade environment,” Mukaruliza said.
Though Rwanda’s interests were safeguarded during the negotiations, Mukaruliza said that Non-Tariff-Barriers (NTBs) imposed by other partner states continue to pose a big challenge to the business community in the country.
The Minister said Kenya has a significant number of weighbridges up to approximately 40, in addition to axle load limits.
“Two weighbridges would be enough – one at the point of entry and at the point of exit. The axle load limits imposed for Rwanda puts our business community in a loss because they have to make many trips.”
She says Rwanda has removed all the NTBs related to policy, roadblocks and also reduced procedures to facilitate trade.
“After the upcoming EAC investment conference, the region will have a dialogue on each NTB and other challenges affecting the business community,” Mukaruliza said, referring to the upcoming meeting as a regional initiative aimed at addressing NTBs.
Under the protocol, the partner states are obligated to guarantee free movement of persons who are citizens of other member states as well as to ensure non-discrimination of the citizens of the partner states.
East African nationals shall also enjoy the freedom to apply for employment, accept offers of employment and to move freely within territories of the partner states for the purpose of employment.
National governments shall, however, limit the free movement of persons on grounds of public policy, public security or public health but must appropriately notify partner states.