Despite the importance of marine resources for the environment, food security and economic growth, destructive practices such as overfishing has dramatically reduced the size of fish resources worldwide.

Despite the huge potential for agriculture in the EAC, the region remains a net food importer relying on imports to sustain its population. Trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture remains a major challenge preventing the EAC from integrating in the world markets. At this meeting, East African negotiators to the WTO examined the prospects of this issue in the run-up to this year's ministerial conference.

SMEs comprise 90 per cent of all firms globally and are the largest source of employment. However, WTO’s 2016 World Trade Report indicates that SMEs are highly vulnerable to trade barriers given their limited access to finance, technology, skilled labour, and markets; and recognizes the importance of making international trade more inclusive to them. As consultations are ongoing at the WTO in this regard, East African negotiators met to gather inputs and discuss the chalenges faced by their SMEs.

Government procurement is increasingly attracting attention in Free Trade Agreements and regional integration. While liberalizing government procurement can help public procurers get better value for money, it may also reduce policy space for using some trade-distorting government procurement methods aimed at promoting enterprise development domestically. Against this backdrop, East African negotiators reflected on their potential priorities and interests in liberalizing their government procurement sector, based on their stakeholders’ feedback from the ground.

The relationship between trade and investment was among the “Singapore issues” dropped from WTO negotiations after the 2003 Cancun Ministerial Conference. However, with ministers' recent decision to explore new negotiating issues at the WTO and the growing presence of investment in trade agreements worldwide, some anticipate a possible comeback of investment at the WTO. At this meeting, East African negotiators discussed the state and ground realities of investment in their countries.

Following the Nairobi decision allowing WTO Members to consider negotiating some “new issues”, electronic commerce has received renewed interest in trade debates over the past few months. At this meeting, East African delegates to the WTO were briefed about the history and status of the WTO work programme on E-Commerce. They were also updated about stakeholders’ views on the matter in their respective countries.

Contemporary debates suggest the need for integrating economies in global value chains (GVCs) as an effective means for harnessing development through trade. However, Africa, more so sub-Saharan African countries remain trapped at the lower end of GVCs contributing raw materials and basic value addition. Then, how to catapult the region into higher end value chains? At this meeting, East African negotiators to the WTO considered this question with the help of feedback provided by their stakeholders on the ground.

The cotton, textile and apparel (CTA) sector has been prioritised in East Africa for its promising development potential. Yet, only 15% of the cotton produced is processed within the region and the rest is exported to other developing and developed countries for processing into textile and apparels. At this meeting, East African negotiators to the WTO reflected on the trade challenges faced by CTA value chains in their region, based on updates from stakeholders on the ground.

The 10th Ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO MC10) was held for the first time on Africa’s soil in Nairobi, Kenya from December 15th to 19th, 2015. The conference adopted a number of decisions now referred to as the Nairobi Package. This meeting brought together East African WTO negotiators who discussed the MC10 outcomes, foreseeable challenges, and the way forward.

The so-called “new issues”, which have been floating around for a long time, have now been but on the WTO agenda by trade ministers in Nairobi last year. As of early 2016, WTO members are now trying to figure out what precisely these “new issues” could be, and what are their own interests therein. Looking at recent trade agreements, possible new issues may include those “Singapore issues” which already have a history at the WTO like investment, government procurement and competition policy. This paper focuses on the latter, providing a historical overview of debates related to competition policy within the WTO.

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