21 February 2013

East Africa: EAC Lagging Behind On Common Market

Uganda has asked regional experts to provide proposals to unlock all impediments to the success of a common market in East Africa.

Speaking in Arusha last week, Edith Mwanje, Uganda's permanent secretary for East African Affairs, criticised the slow pace of implementation due to continuing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) imposed by some states.

"I wish to recall the concerns expressed by both the Summit and the Council of Ministers on the slow pace of implementation of the protocol and the need to reflect on where we are, where we ought to be and what needs to be done to put implementation back on track," Mwanje said at the end of a five-day review.

She urged the experts to critically examine the role of the respective national implementation committees on how best to deal with the commitments made under the protocol, since the timelines for implementation had been overtaken by events.

Uganda was particularly concerned about the recurring problem of NTBs on the free movement of goods, and urged the experts to propose effective measures to ensure that what had been agreed upon at the regional level is implemented. The meeting was meant to review a report on the implementation of the common market protocol, more than two years after it came into force.

The experts noted the lack of a standardised reporting period, lack of a common understanding and interpretation of the indicators, as some of the obstacles to achieving its dream of an effective common market protocol. Limited funding at national and regional levels was also an impediment to the implementation of the protocol.

The partners also want a quick resolution to the contentious issues preventing the passing of a schedule on free movement of workers and services. Some partner states are yet to submit their comments on this issue, delaying completion of the negotiations on trade in services.

East African states are supposed to establish National Implementation Committees (NIC) by February 29, 2012 to speed up the implementation.

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