Acute financial constraints may hinder the EAC-US negotiations aimed at strengthening bilateral trade and investment between the bloc and the United States.
According to information from the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, the finance issue was discussed during a recent meeting of the council of ministers that convened last month.
“The budget for these meetings this financial year 2013-2014 has been reduced to $34,370, which is not even adequate for convening a single meeting .This will adversely affect EAC’s participation in these negotiations,” reads part of a confidential report from the Secretariat.
According to the report, the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment considered the progress on EAC-US trade and investment partnership and was informed that the secretariat faces several budget constraints in facilitating meetings on EAC-US Trade and partnership investments.
The community has always tried to forge different partnerships to widen the market for the regional products. Other ongoing negotiations are European Economic Partnership Agreement with the bloc.
The Arusha based secretariat normally gets the funding from the partner states and other development partners to fund the negotiations.
Nathan N. Gashayija, the director of regional integration programmes in the Ministry of East African Community Affairs, confirmed the development, but said it might be considered in the next financial year.
“They (the Secretariat) told us that there was a financial constraint but I think this can’t hinder the negotiations,” he said.
He said the partnerships would help scale up the investment and trade among the partner states noting that would help in elevating the economic integration.
In December, trade ministers from the region, together with the US government, released a joint statement directing their respective technical teams to engage as soon as possible in the consultations on areas to be factored.
In her recent trip to the region, the then acting US Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank, said her government would continue working closely with East African countries to strengthen and promote bilateral trade, democracy, regional peace and security as well as identifying opportnities for Africa on US market.
She said one of the most exciting examples of this is the Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the East African Community through which the former seeks to support the latter’s integration process.
Under the trade and investment partnership with EAC, the two parties are expected to work together to provide new business opportunities to US and EAC firms by reducing trade barriers, improving the business environment, encouraging open investment regimes and enhancing our two-way trade.