Why an EAC negotiations Act is crucial

Why an EAC negotiations Act is crucial
Business Daily Africa, September 03, 2010

By Fredrick Njehu

According to a report by the East African Court of Justice, East Africans have nowhere to present any disputes that may arise from a common market.

The East African Joint Trade Negotiations Act was assented to

Only a few verbal statements have been made by several bureaucrats in support of the passing of the negotiations Act while the real execution has witnessed a general reluctance from major stakeholders ranging from line ministries within the partners states to the EAC Secretariat itself.

by the Summit in 2007.

To date, the Act is yet to be effected and no progress has been made and the mechanisms that were put in place have not yet been initiated by partner states.

In order to build an inclusive East African Community, the partner states will be obliged to implement the negotiations Act by forming a commission at the EAC Secrtatariat in order for traders to seek redress on any conflicts that may arise within the EAC bloc.

With the EAC common market already in place, such a commission is fundamental to address matters such as those pertaining to participation in the multilateral agreements in the World Trade Organisation and economic partnership agreements so as to facilitate the EAC’s participation as one single bloc rather than individual countries.

Relevant issues

It’s also expected to conduct research, commission studies and consult any person in the discharge of its powers, prepare strategic and positional papers on relevant issues relating to regional or multilateral negotiations affecting the partner states as may be prescribed by EAC laws.

Its membership will be from each of the five partner states including ministers’ responsible EAC affairs, ministers of trade, foreign affairs and technocrats who are qualified in international economics, trade, development, law or policy.

Other obligations enshrined in the common market protocol state that EAC partner states should co-ordinate trade relations with foreign countries in a manner that facilitates the implementation of common policies in regards to external trade.

With such obligations therefore, only such a commission can perform the co-ordination, harmonisation and convergence of issues.

There is also a need for partner states to pool the scarce financial and human resources available for better negotiation processes that address countries’ interests.

This is because the individual Partner States face financial constraints to sustain an extensive analytical trade negotiations process due to ongoing corresponding negotiations at regional, bilateral and multilateral levels.

To effectively implement these act, non-state actors should actively be involved, addressing legal matters through the East African Legislative Assembly and the attorney-general chambers, rolling out public awareness campaigns on the process through academic institutions so as to make it more inclusive.

The writer is a researcher at CUTS Africa Resource Centre, Nairobi (fkn@cuts.org)

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