Trade Policy at Work

Climate, Food, Trade: Bringing Coherence into East African Policy Responses

The 12th EAC Geneva Forum took place on the sidelines of the second Regional Annual Meeting of the PACT EAC project in Kampala, Uganda. In addition to the Geneva based EAC WTO delegates the forum was attended by the PACT EAC Country partners. The meeting focused on the highlights and ways forward from the five national studies of the PACT EAC project “Climate, Food, Trade: Where is the Policy Nexus?” as presented by the country partners, and an issue paper on the “Processes and Issues towards the WTO Bali Ministerial Conference” as presented by CUTS International.

Five National Studies on “Climate, Food, Trade: Where is the Policy Nexus?”

Each of the five PACT EAC country partners presented on the inter-linkages between climate change, food security and trade as found in the respective national studies and identified the main conclusions and recommendations of the studies, as well as the recent developments in their countries, perceptions from different stakeholders, and recommendations to the Geneva based WTO delegates of the EAC countries.

From the Uganda study, it was highlighted that climate change in Uganda is being felt through intensification of extreme weather events which alter agricultural patterns. For example, in 2007 there were frequent occurrences of bad weather events. Climate change is a major threat and therefore coordination and coherence in policies and actions is needed. The vision 2040 of Uganda and the National Development Plan should include climate change impact considerations for their objectives to be fully achieved.

Climate change impact concerns were also voiced by the Rwanda representative, who said that climate change is now impacting the livelihoods in Rwanda. But, there is no inclusive policy on climate change, food security, and trade. There are only policies combining two of the three areas. In reality, these areas are strongly linked e.g. crop intensification, mechanization and irrigation, which enhance food security and trade but have an impact on the climate and the environment. Since land is insufficient, these methods are needed. The Rwanda study recommends documentation of linkages between trade and climate change; mainstreaming climate change issues into trade and food security policy; and to link small-scale farmers to privates sector. The Geneva –based negotiators should be aware of the local realities.

The Kenyan intervention emphasized the problem of increasing temperature, increased food demand in areas of drought, and overdependence on food aid. In Kenya, tea, horticulture, and tourism are affected. Trade could be the solution, but farmers lose ability to trade in the current climatic conditions. However, as of 2013, Kenya has a National Climate Change Action Plan. The Kenya national study recommends proper prioritization of resources by government Ministries; coherent climate change policy that has food security and trade issues mainstreamed; the meteorological department needs to be strengthened; and land use policy implementation reform is needed. In Burundi, the wet seasons are shorter and dry seasons are longer, which creates confusion on when farmers should plant their crops. There is food speculation on the borders. Agriculture and climate are intimately linked and the policies are in place but a lot of research in the area is missing. There is a need to create an agricultural calendar to avoid climate caused food insecurity catastrophes. The study also recommends a creation of a committee on climate, food, and trade.

Similarly, in Tanzania there are examples of climate, food, and trade linkages, such as the droughts in 2002 in Kenya that triggered outflows of maize from Tanzania, while Tanzania also experienced droughts, which resulted in food export bans from Tanzania due to concerns of food security. Among the recent development, in April 2013 the Vice President’s Office submitted to the UNFCCC the process and roadmap for formulating national adaptation Plans for Tanzania, which also have implications on food security. The recommendations to the Geneva based delegates are to insist on coherent policies on climate change and food security; to have producers first and foremost supply to the local markets and then export; and, to strengthen the meteorological agency in Tanzania.

The Geneva based EAC WTO Delegates observed that it was important to debate these issues. It was suggested that the Aid for Trade framework could be extended to address some of these challenges e.g. promoting climatic goods, supporting agriculture, and research organizations. Further promotion of drought resistant goods and widening of currently narrow food basket would be needed. The bridge of trade, climate change, and development in the EAC can come through a green economy. It was further emphasized by the Burundi delegation that for the Bali WTO Ministerial Conference, the EAC should discuss as a region the issues that are important to them.

Processes & Issues towards the WTO Bali Conference

From the note on “Processes & Issues towards the WTO Bali Conference,” it was highlighted that the Doha mandate under Article 47 allows agreements to be concluded and implemented on Doha issues progressively. For the forthcoming Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, three main issues are currently under consideration for possible conclusion, namely trade facilitation, parts of agriculture negotiations, and some development issues. These were discussed in some detail, especially their implications for the EAC.

Finally, some concerns were voiced on the implications of concluding the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union that might whittle away gains made in the WTO. It was also observed that there is need to operationalize the EAC joint trade negotiation mandate in order to optimally pursue the regions interests at both the bilateral and multilateral level.